For The 21st Century Enthusiasts: How To Build Powerful Tech-Infused Lesson Plans

(By Katie Lepi)

More and more educators are leveraging technology in their classrooms, which is one aspect of being a 21st century teacher helping their students (and probably themselves, too) to develop 21st century skills.  Finding a combination of the most useful devices, web tools, and apps can be a powerful learning tool for your students.

But leveraging technology in such a way that it helps your lesson rather than being the focus of your lesson isn’t always easy, especially when you’re using apps that focus on specific topics. It’s so easy to look at the material in the app as being the lesson. On the other hand, the technology can also end up being an afterthought, which is also less than idea, just on the other end of the spectrum. So how do you go about creating 21st century lesson plans that leverage the technology to support your lesson without being your lesson?

21st Century Lesson Plans

Just as a quick review, the following are what has been identified as necessary skills of the 21st century learner. Creating a 21st century lesson plan should touch on at least one of these (or some offshoot or concept thereof).

  • Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology;
  • Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought;
  • Design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes;
  • Manage, analyse, and synthesise multiple streams of simultaneous information;
  • Create, critique, analyse, and evaluate multimedia texts;
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.

Another good model to use might be the ISTE-NETS for students, which outline similar learning goals:

  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Technology Operations
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Critical Thinking
  • Research and Information

Don’t Be Afraid Of Failure

We’re using the term ‘failure’ loosely here, and we’re using it to mean including 21st century skills and technology on either end of the spectrum described above, rather than falling somewhere in the middle. Just like in ‘regular’ lesson planning, not every 21st century lesson will be a winner. Sometimes your great ideas will weigh too heavily on the app you selected, or the students won’t bother or won’t need to work collaboratively or use the digital materials you’ve pointed them to. Just move on to the next thing, and keep that information in your arsenal for later. Just don’t let it keep you from trying!

Use What You Have

One of the best ways to integrate technology and the aforementioned 21st century skills into your lesson planning is to use the resources you already have – namely, your existing lesson plans. If you start using an existing lesson, you’re unlikely to change it so drastically that it completely focuses on a technology rather than on the material at hand. Instead, you can work on changing one or two aspects of the lesson to incorporate 21st century skills.

Tap Your PLN

We know that you’ve got a lot of ideas stashed out there….somewhere. We see lots of great ideas shared by teachers on Twitter, personal blogs, Pinterest, and other social networks. Whether you’re going back to check out an idea that you remember seeing that you thought was fun, innovative, and interesting, or browsing to find new ideas on how to enhance your students’ learning, there is a lot of good stuff out there! You can also reach out to your peers (both the kind physically in your school or district, or those in your ‘virtual’ PLN, and ask questions. Maybe someone has a suggestion or can give you some real life feedback on something that you’re thinking about implementing.

Familiar Is Better

My mum is almost completely technologically illiterate. She has an iPad (no computer) and a cell phone (not a smartphone). I was recently considering giving her my old iPhone when I buy a new one because it would be so much easier for me to troubleshoot her problems on a device that I’m familiar with, rather than flying blind on the phone as she describes the weird stuff her phone is doing when it doesn’t work correctly.

Same goes for your classroom. Don’t rush to bring a new device, web tool, or concept to your classroom without becoming very familiar with it first. Fiddle around with devices, apps, and web tools, and test out the 21st century skills you’re hoping to infuse into your lesson plan before bringing it to class.

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