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21st Century Learning Is Not All About Technology

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by Aviva Dunsiger

I used to think that 21st century teaching and learning was all about using technology. At many conferences I attended, the discussion always seemed to come back to the tool, and so I started to focus on that tool as well. Over the years though, my understanding of the “21st century teaching mindset,” has evolved, and I’ve realized that it’s possible to focus on 21st century skills with limited technology.

Earlier this week, I was using one of my math periods to review for an upcoming assessment  on geometry. My teaching partner and I decided to try something different for this review: Speed Math. On large pieces of chart paper, we wrote down different topics from this unit (e.g., translations, rotations, measuring angles, etc.). We put the chart paper on desks around the room. Students were divided into groups, and each group was given sticky notes, grid paper, and access to any tools that they wanted from the math cart. Each group started at a different piece of chart paper, and in about four minutes, they had to use pictures, numbers, and words to share everything that they knew about their given topic. They could also ask questions. When the timer went, students rotated to the next chart paper centre.

The activity was simple to organize and monitor, but it turned out to be one of the most powerful 21st century activities that I’ve done. At each of the centres, students began to collaborate on their responses. They were talking and working together: figuring out problems, explaining concepts, and answering questions. They also began to look at what their peers wrote, and started to build on those ideas: clarifying misconceptions and adding information. This activity was so open-ended that it also easily included differentiated instruction: giving students choice and voice in how they shared their learning with others and what learning they shared with others. All students were successful! Then a couple of students took video footage of the discussions and photographs of the completed charts, and shared them on Twitter and on one of our classroom blogs. Now the math learning could be shared with the world, and easily accessible for students to review at home with their parents as they prepared for the test.

How do you develop 21st century skills without the sole use of technology? If only being given the access to limited tools, what ones do you think are essential to have in a 21st century classroom?

 

Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.

She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.  

 

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