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May 15, 2012 Inspiring Students With Real-World Learning and 21st Century Skills By Megan Power
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Our job as teachers is to inspire our students to want to learn. Especially as early childhood educators, we are laying the foundation for students’ school careers. As you are winding down your school year, assessing and reflecting on your students’ progress, remember to take time to reflect on your teaching. Are there things you want to change for the next year? Do you have a subject area that you want to restructure? Can you think of any areas where you can let students take the lead in their learning? Try and shift your thinking from a tools-first approach (i.e., I just got a new iPad. What could I do with it?) to a learning-first approach (Johnny is having difficulties with patterning. What can I have him do with the iPad to help him in this area?).

    As you sit on the beach relaxing this summer, I encourage you to ponder how you can use technology in your classroom and give your students the opportunities to develop 21st century skills.



    Rethink Your Use of Technology

    The technology in a learning rich classroom should be invisible. What this means is that technology should be seamlessly integrated into the project or content that is being studied and not just stuck in at the end to add a technology component. We should not just be sitting students in front of a computer, having them follow a program, and calling that 21st century skills. Twenty-first century skills mean students should be brainstorming, collaborating, problem solving, and creating. The content should be fluid, and the means of discovering it, flexible. Students should be actively engaging with the content. Project-based learning, in which students are actively participating and affecting the global world, brings the content to life for them. When we use real-world projects, students are motivated to learn. With a skilled teacher on their side helping them make connections to content and academic skills, students learn far more.

    Do not underestimate your students’ abilities. No matter what age, demography, or skills level, your students can do this. I have found that even in my most difficult classes, students can find the motivation to succeed. Having a teacher that believes in them and trusts them with big, interactive projects makes all the difference.

    So take a look at your standards and content in between your relaxing summer reading. I challenge you to select a standard or topic that gives your students difficulty and think about restructuring how you teach it. Can you let students take the lead or involve them in a project-based learning activity on that topic? I encourage you to give it a try. Once you put the learning in the students’ hands, you will see how much further they will take it. Have a wonderful summer!


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