What 21st Century Teachers Don’t Do

“The six areas of the FC Graduate Profile define the academic skills and personal characteristics that will make students successful as they continue their education, enter the workspace, or join the military…All staff members K-12 play an active role in building young men and women who personify the Graduate Profile.” (from FC website)

When I look at the Graduate Profile, I see the list of characteristics that are recognized today as 21st century skills. Does it mean that those of us who grew up in 20th century don’t possess such skills?  Can we effectively teach the digital generation of today? Of course, we can… if we welcome change, regularly reflect on the work we do, and never stop learning.  Otherwise, we fall behind the times and drag students with us, robbing them of great possibilities. 

After reading professional literature, articles and blogs, I’ve attempted to identity characteristics of a typical classroom from the past. Take a look….You are falling behind the times if:

  • You talk more in class (small or big group) than your students whom you handicap by taking away opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other.
  • You create more content for your lessons than your students do. Your students never take an active part in creating assessments.
  • You rarely share the stylus with your students and view a flipchart presentation or PowerPoint as satisfying technology integration in a classroom.
  • You believe that there is not enough time in your classroom for project-based learning and you focus your energy on preparing students for a test instead.
  • Your students always turn in their home or class assignments on printed paper instead of digitally (Angel, BYOT, web-based tools) and the only feedback you give them is a smiley face/check mark or a final grade. You don’t set milestones for any assignments.
  • You think that the BYOT initiative will never take roots in schools and it is something that will surely die out and go away in a few years.
  • Students use classroom desktops primarily to type the stories they wrote on paper to be printed out and sent home for keepsake. The only audience the papers ever see is you.
  • You use printers and copier machines every day.
  • You’ve never used or heard of Collaborize Classroom, Prezi, Evernote, Voki, Wallwisher, Glogster, Typewith.me, Storybird, JayCut, Museum Box, or Tiki-Toci. 
  • You rarely volunteer your time to attend a training, free webinar or join a teacher learning community on Twitter or another social network to communicate with teachers around the world.
  • You use your webpage to post only homework assignments and newsletters instead of sharing students’ blogs, podcasts and published work.
  • “I’ve used it for many years and it’s almost a tradition now,” is a phrase you use to escape innovation and change.
  • You only contact your ITS when technical issues arise. You don’t find at least one thing to call or email your ITS about at least twice a month (showing off students’ work, planning, share ideas, implementing lessons, learning a new tool, etc.)

I know you said “not me” to many of these characteristics because you are great teachers. But you know you said “kind of me” to some of them. Maybe there is something you want to alter. Change is hard to endure, but the outcome is worth every bit of your effort. Reflect on your work… Would you like to be in your classroom?

Additional resources that are worth your time:

21 Century Pedagogy  

 21 Century Assessment     

 21 Century  Teacher   

 10 Question to Ask Yourself

Measure Seven Times

“Measure seven times, cut once,” was the proverb I was thinking of after the session on planning and coaching. The importance of scrupulous planning, developing a time line, and making every step of PBL meaningful while keeping a clear focus on the goal should never be underestimated by any teacher. Is it challenging and takes time? Yes! Does it often require reading of professional literature? Of course! Will the results be worth such efforts? Absolutely! The pay-off is a true learning experience for students, not just a product-making activity (makes me think of my earlier post Don’t Let Gorillas Live in Mountains).

I appreciate the time given in our session to explore online resources for planning and collaborating on a project. I was very excited to discover how many forms and graphic organizers were already created and avalible to us. However, I felt my goal as a coach would be to adjust/edit some of those forms, sparkle them with some Shiloh Elementary style, “translate” them into the language that most teachers “speak” in the building. So I did. But I found myself changing, editing a form every time I met with a different teacher. The route that  teachers would take for a project and the readiness of their classes would drive our professional decisions. It helped me see that all I had to do was to familiarize teachers with the tools and show their effectiveness. 

I felt that the past month was the time of true ITS-teacher collaboration experince for me. Event though results of our discussions were not always what I would call a whole project-based learning experience, but the planing piece was in place.  Setting expectation with rubrics and sticking to good compelling questions was our start.  Building  professional trust and strengthening relationships with my teachers were my bonuses .

Here is an example of the rubric for Native Americans Project (4th grade), the product of ITS-Teacher collaboration.

Here are examples (example 1, example 2, example 3) of final products of this unit.

Don’t Let Gorillas Live in Mountains!

 When teachers plan projects, where do they start? In my experience, they are often in a hurry to label the final product. Too many times, I heard teachers say, “I want them to do something in Wixie”, or “I want them create a Photostory on something”. Is that what projects are about – the product? What exactly is that “something”?

Recently, a teacher asked me to help her students record their voices for Georgia Regions projects. Both, the teacher and her students, seemed to be extremely proud of them, so I instantly got that “gotta see it” feeling. Then I opened a project. It was named “Blue Ridge of Georgia.” The very first slide had a gorgeous image of mountains with a huge, black… gorilla, sitting on the top of it! When I asked the student why he chose the gorilla, he proudly announced, “Because it lives in mountains.” “In Georgia?” I was still hoping he would catch his mistake. “Yes, in Blue Ridge, I found it in the stickers folder,” was his answer.

Well, even though I think a third grader should have done a better research than looking in a sticker folder, but what bothered me the most was the teacher’s response to my concern about the poorly executed research.  She simply said, “This is just their first project; I just wanted them to learn Wixie.”

This class spent about five hours in the computer lab, but what did the students learn? Was the process effective and worth the time? What was the purpose of the lesson? Learn Wixie tools?

Many teachers declare they integrate technology nowadays, but what they really do is use it to replace their favorite worksheets – “here is the task, go do it” kind of instruction. 

A product and project-based learning are two different things. The process of creating a product is project-based learning, and teachers’ role in this process is crucial. This is the time to plan thoroughly, coach diligently, monitor constantly, inspire, and teach students think, deeply and independently. This is the time when we don’t let gorillas settle in mountains…