New Teacher Tips: Strengthening 21st Century Skills by Incorporating Simple Tech Tools
As you sit at your desk, staring at your tablet and the array of lessons coloring your virtual planner, trying to figure out “What next?” for the week’s lessons you feel…tired. Not just tired – exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. You’re this close to walking to the Principal’s office and turning in your classroom keys. You’re not alone. The first year of teaching can be HARD. No amount of teacher PDs, staff meetings, and conference goodies can seem to make it better. The IDEAS ARE AWESOME but it can be overwhelming. What really is the focus?
The consensus of many educators is that it is essential that our students must have 21st century skills that will help them in the future job market. In a practical sense, these skills will help them thrive in an environment that is technologically advancing daily. What are some of these 21st century skills?
- Critical Thinking involves problem-solving, which is vital to improvement and progress and builds on students’ cognitive development (from knowledge to evaluation).
- Collaboration, or working with others, helps students to learn to make compromises and reach better outcomes to problems posed.
- Communication is an important skill because students need to be able to convey their ideas with others who have different personality types and thinking ability.
- Creativity encourages thinking unconventionally, or ‘out-of-the-box’, so that students adapt to different situations versus sticking to traditional ways of doing things.
- Flexibility requires that although students have developed a plan, things happen, and they need to know how to adapt and when to make changes.
- Information Literacy is a skill that students need in order to recognize fact from fiction when presented with data.
- Initiative is one of the more challenging skills to master because it necessitates that students start projects and plans, incorporating strategies learned, and practice this skill often.
- Productivity is getting things done in a set amount of time, but with the many distractions that abound, focusing on tasks can be a challenge and this skill is crucial for a future in the work force.
- Social Skills can be strengthened during collaborative group activities because etiquette, manners, and conversation (initiating, participating in, sustaining) are necessary to make progress.
- Technology Literacy seems like an obvious skill, but the more students are taught how to use different forms of technology, the more adept they will be with performing various tasks.
Considering the importance of these skills, the time needed to plan a unit and/or lessons integrating these skills, and the actual time needed to support these skills, it can seem like there isn’t a planner large enough to squeeze everything in. But what if there was a tool that could be used to combine many of these skills at once? Qwizdom recognizes the need to incorporate technology while integrating many of the skills previously described. Both the Qwizdom Student Response System and Qwizdom OKTOPUS software help students build on these 21st century skills through their collaboration features, subject-specific lessons, and gaming components. Here’s an example of what a typical day can be with Qwizdom:
|8:30 – 8:45 A.M.||Attendance and Homework check using Answer Key in self-paced mode|
|8:45 – 9:30 A.M.||Language Arts using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Main Idea — Implied vs. Stated” or “Parts of Speech”|
|9:30 – 10:15 A.M.||Learning Centers using GameZones; pull small groups for reteach using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons and/or OKTOPUS subject-specific tools|
|10:15 – 10:35 A.M.||Recess|
|10:35 – 10:45 A.M.||Transition activity using GameZones — game or Teaching Tool|
|10:45 – 11:30 A.M.||Math using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Fractions on a Number Line” or “Addition Word Problems”|
|11:30 – 12:15 P.M.||Lunch and recess|
|12:15 – 12:30 P.M.||K.B.A.R. = Kick Back and Read|
|12:30 – 1:30 P.M.||Social Studies or Science using Qwizdom/OKTOPUS lessons such as “Communities and Government” or “Water Cycle”|
|1:30 – 2:15 P.M.||Computer Lab or Library|
|2:15 – 3:00 P.M.||Music or P.E.|
|3:00 – 3:20 P.M.||Closing and dismissal|
For any lesson using the Qwizdom SRS, you can present activities that include questions for your students to answer using a remote, a.k.a. clicker, or the QVR app. You can also pose original questions during a lesson to better gauge student understanding and address any challenges immediately. This encourages flexibility and adaptability for both you and your students (i.e., Where should I go from here? What skill needs more time for understanding? How can I understand this better? Is there another way to look at this?).
For lessons using OKTOPUS software, students can collaborate using laptops or tablets with the Qwizdom Notes+ App, sharing out annotations as you present. The versatility of an interactive whiteboard allows you to provide a dynamic learning experience for everyone. For example, use Glass Mode in OKTOPUS to explore a website or view a video, saving annotations for later use. Or, while introducing new vocabulary, use Word Vault to create and pose simple drag-drop/matching questions. Lesson questions can be answered via a polling function providing you and your students with valuable feedback.
Both Qwizdom SRS and OKTOPUS software include game features to boost motivation and increase positive collaboration, communication, and social skills when played in teams. When setting up a presentation, simply select a game type — Baseball, Fast Track, or Mission to Mars.
If you have an interactive display with OKTOPUS, the GameZones section includes games and Teaching Tools for direct and guided instruction, or to use independently at learning centers. For example, the “Teaching Base Ten” activity allows you to create different numbers using base-ten blocks, helping students understand place value. Students can take the initiative to choose activities that will help them improve their understanding of newly acquired concepts and skills. This can motivate them to take responsibility for their learning progress, leading to better outcomes. For more on how GameZones is a great addition to creating and using learning centers, read Learning Centers Made Easy.
With greater incorporation of technology, students become more engaged in learning, and your role changes from lecturer to coach, encourager, and supporter. You may even discover that the stress that overwhelmed you in the beginning has shifted to the anticipation of watching your students take their learning progress in their own hands, becoming more and more adept at the 21st century skills essential for success.