Powerful technology use is one of three problem areas that make up the Digital Learning Gap. Access and Participation being the other two. The Digital Learning Gap is caused by differences in how Americans in and out of school access and use technology to improve learning opportunities and outcomes. My work calls for me to constantly ask how can we use technology to enhance and transform the learning experience for each student, so I often focus on powerful use of technology. When thinking about powerful, transformative learning experiences, I tend to think about the 4Cs for 21st Century Learning (Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity) and how we embed it in our instruction. When used along with digital tools, the 4Cs can have a powerful effect on student learning and help to close the digital learning gap.
In a time where everything can be Googled, Critical Thinking is a very empowering and necessary skill. When information is so accessible, students need to be critical consumers. Consumers who question what they see and hear, and who can also find information if they need it. Here at ANCS, we teach our students to be curious and to ask questions. We also teach them how to search and give them educational databases where they can access credible information. Databases such as Galileo and Nettrekker. Students also learn about and have access to wonderful informational sites such as Wonderopolis, NewsELA, and DiscoveryEd. Sites where they can find answers to questions that they may have. It is my hope that when students leave here, they are truth seekers that value facts and are able to ask questions that help them lead to the right answers.
Communication and Collaboration, I believe, go hand in hand. While we provide students with tools to communicate such as Google Docs and Google Slides, these tools also become mediums through which strong collaboration happens. Students communicate their ideas using these tools and often collaborate with other students on shared storytelling and projects. Being able to work together towards a common goal, in both real and virtual spaces, are skills that will be highly sought after by future employers. Tools like Google, Video, and Virtual Field Trips are connecting our students with experts in the field and helping to give them a global perspective. Having the tools to be a strong communicator and collaborator helps students on their journey to becoming global learners, where they are able to empathize with others who may be different, solve global issues, and advocate for social change.
The last C, and perhaps my favorite, is Creativity. It is no secret that not all students learn the same, so it should be no surprise that not all students wish to express themselves the same. By giving students multiple ways to express themselves and show their learning, we can promote student voice. Digital tools give students a voice to express themselves in different ways that, years ago, was not possible or accessible to everyone. This expression may come as a podcast, slideshow, tutorial video, digital puppet show, coding, robotics, making, or even green screen.
Of course you don’t need technology to implement the 4Cs into instruction, it is only one tool in a teachers handbag of greatness. A tool that, If used properly with the 4Cs in mind, can be transformational to a students learning.
– Makisha Rogers