Category Archives: Edtech

Learning 21st-century competencies to build a sustainable future

For some educators, the term ‘21st-century learning’ indicates a heavy reliance on teachers’ use of technology to deliver lessons or students’ demonstration of learning via podcasts, videos, animations, and other products that didn’t exist when we old-timers were in school. Others claim that ‘21st-century learning’ refers to skills that apply not only to school, but to life in general. Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving are generally at or near the top of this skills list.

I would argue that modern education requires a focus on competencies rather than skills, and that technology should simply facilitate the learning process instead of being its focus.

Check out the post I wrote for New Nordic School in Finland, in which I discuss the importance of competency-based learning in a real world framework.

 

I’ve been creating HyperDocs for my students, and I didn’t even know it!

The Cult of Pedagogy article “How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching” appeared in my Twitter feed recently. While cooking dinner last night, I listened to the embedded podcast and realized that I’ve been using this great tool for a while without even realizing it has a proper name!

My enthusiasm for the Google for Education universe is based primarily on the following reasons:

  1. GAFE allows for an almost entirely paperless classroom. Documents, presentations, diagrams, drawings, and data sets can be emailed, shared with peers, and/or published online with only a few clicks and keystrokes. This cloud-based connectivity also makes it a lot more challenging to lose work!
  2. Collaboration among teachers as well as students is incredibly easy and intuitive, especially since there’s no downloading required, training others how to “track changes” and return an updated file is no longer necessary, and each user’s favorite operating system is irrelevant because each person can keep using their platform of choice without inconveniencing others.
  3. Personalized, differentiated learning is more achievable through what I’ve always referred to as a “menu” of activity choices provided to students: a selection of relevant YouTube videos, online learning games, animations and simulations, traditional worksheets, and news articles about recent scientific developments in the current topic of study. The menu concept allows each student to engage with a unit of study at his or her own pace and preferences.

Early versions of my HyperDocs were less open-ended and quite sequential: “First, complete these two activities and email your teacher when you’re ready to share your work. Then complete the following worksheet, and after that….” It was a great way to use the hyperlink feature of Google Docs to keep students organized, but there wasn’t really much choice involved.

As I became more and more competent with the Google platform (I’m now a Google-Certified Educator), I began to use hyperlinking differently: “If you’re curious about X, click here. If you’d rather learn about Y first, follow this link. When you’re ready to develop your final product, make a copy of the document linked here and follow the instructions within it.” My team-teaching colleagues and I started using Docs to develop entire units of study in which we collectively shared and used all the resources we’d found individually, and that was really empowering as an educator.

In the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Kelly Hilton, Lisa Highfill, and Sarah Landis, authors of The HyperDoc Handbook. All 3 women teach outside Silicon Valley, and they summarize the benefits of HyperDocs as:

  • Fewer lectures
  • More face-to-face interactions with students
  • Flexibility
  • Multimodal opportunities
  • Student privacy

Listening to their story, and the way they describe these benefits, I think they’re onto a truly transformative teaching tool. Even though I’d already developed my own approach to this idea, these 3 educators have refined some “best practice” approaches that I’ll be incorporating into my Chili-pepper menus from now on.

Happy learning!

Mr K