Digital Sandbox

This Blog is designed to provide the reader with information on how to adopt technology into the classroom by relooking at traditional classroom tools and transitioning into new ways of teaching and learning. The Digital Sandbox explores the future of learning through the recreation of 21st Century learning environments.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Infusing 21st Century Skills Into Authentic Learning

Due to the advancement of new technologies 21st Century educators will soon be exploring ways to personalize education that promote student center learning formats. These new personal learning environments are not necessarily about the incorporation of technology into a daily lesson but more about teaching students how to collaborate, aggregate and create content into repositories of knowledge. To integrate technology means that teachers must have a deep understanding on how accessing information and creating content is inclusive with digital tools.

This leads us to the essential question, "How well do you have to understand the technology to use it in your classroom?"  To answer the question, it is not about understanding how to use a computer, it is about understanding how to access information, and use digital tools to create new forms of digital content. As educators, we desire to personalize education for a new generation in a global world - teaching students 21st century skills to empower them in their learning is the paramount task for great educators.

A misconception of 21st Century skills is the incorporation of technology into learning, but 21st Century skills is much more than just technology. 21st Century skills is about learning material in a new manner that incorporates collaboration, creativity, innovation in creating new knowledge and understanding of material. The incorporation of technology is an important piece of this learning, but is much more than a stand-alone issue. 

To successfully transition to a 1:1 iPad or any 1:1 technology program, a school district must take into account several items: hardware, network, training, applications, functions, support, and professional development planning over time. But most importantly can teachers become designers of learning. Will they be able to facilitate the learning process in order for students to create content through deep learning experiences. This in essence becomes the shift in instructional thinking as teachers begin to recognize that they are no longer the holders of content but the designers of learning.  The digital tools then become the constructive elements of content by the students as teachers become designers and facilitators of the learning process.

Teachers who are designers of learning realign their teaching strategies that are constructed on the use of multiple disciplines as they apply specific design features for a unit. These are the design features that focus on framing multiple standards to the rigor and relevance of complex task. They are teachers who can create lessons and units of study into a workable model. They have the acquired skill sets on how to specify the elements of rigor and secondly apply learning relevance that hover around the central theme of a unit or an essential question. They know how to construct these units as a mainframe of each daily lesson as it relates to the context for developing real world authentic task.

It should be noted that the skill sets to specifying elements of rigor provide higher levels of understanding and specifying elements of relevance provides evidence of real life applications. Teachers who think of the end product of a lesson as an element of learning design are  in the quest for an authentic task. They understand that the world of work provides many contexts for authentic tasks. Their goal in lesson design is to require students to solve a real-world problems. 

According to Melinda Kolk, "The creation of an authentic task is a bridge between the content learned in the classroom and why this knowledge is important in the world outside of it. The authentic, or real-world, nature of the task frames student work in a relevant and interesting way. Much of what we ask students to complete in the classroom is contrived. Life in the real world doesn't usually ask you to choose from provided options A, B, C, or D. An authentic task can help teachers make classroom work relevant to students by asking them to make these real-world decisions." To accomplish this task teachers must become the designers of learning as they facilitate the digital tools that allow students to create their own deep learning experiences.