Five Core Competencies for 21st Century Lesson Design

This week, I revised a lesson plan for one of my graduate courses that utilizes 21st Century skills and technology for a productive learning experience.  In an innovative spirit, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011) inform the design of my lesson plan by inspiring me to reexamine it with an eye to its experiential and environmental relevance.

In fact, one of Thomas & Brown’s philosophies that I align with most strongly is that learning “emerges from the environment — and grows along with it.  In the new culture, the classroom as a model is replaced by learning environments in which digital media provides access to a rich source of information and play, and the processes that occur within those environments are integral to the results” (p. 37-38).

In this lesson, I integrate Renee Hobbs’ (2011) five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices:

  • Access (sharing appropriate and relevant information; using technology tools),
  • Analyze (using critical thinking to analyze message purpose, target audience, quality, credibility, point-of-view, etc.),
  • Create (generating content using creativity and confidence in self-expression, with awareness of purpose, audience and composition techniques),
  • Reflect (considering the impact of media messages and technology tools upon our thinking and actions in daily life and applying social responsibility and ethical principles to our own identity, communication behavior, and conduct), and
  • Act (working individually and collaboratively to share knowledge and solve problems in the family, the workplace, and the community, and participating as a member of a community at local, regional, national, and international levels).

My lesson plan integrates 21st Century skills, Thomas & Brown’s revision of the classroom model, and Hobbs’ competencies, on many levels.  The opening activity requires students to think critically in groups by engaging in a digital scavenger hunt for information regarding the Puritan era.  Students begin by collaboratively discovering the QR codes, discussing the content that is found, then decreasing what is said about the resource by the group into 140 characters or less and sharing their reflections with the broader global community via Twitter.  Additionally, correspondence via Twitter during the scavenge connects the classroom together as a collaborative community, even though we are not all together.

The lesson is also very creative.  Giving students the opportunity to leave the classroom on a scavenger hunt for their resources really makes them accountable for their own learning in a way that traditional “sit-and-get” classroom models cannot do.  Additionally, I can monitor their discussion and evaluation of resources via Twitter, which is an innovative way to facilitate synchronous discussion outside the classroom.  This provides students with the agency to explore and “play,” as Thomas & Brown would say, to accomplish learning objectives.

Much of the content of the lesson also deals with communication.  Students communicate with their fellow group members on the basest level, as they are identifying and evaluating resources.  Beyond that, the online backchannel discussion is a novel means of constant, interwoven communication between groups.

This lesson covers every one of Hobbs’ competencies.  First, students are accessing information with technology tools, from using their smartphones or tablets to discuss resources scanned from QR codes, to communicating with their long-lost classmates via Twitter to share their perspectives on the resources and their relevance to the lesson.  They are analyzing artifacts that they discover, such as the poem “Half-Hanged Mary,” to further their understanding of the context for the literary piece and historical background.  They are creating content that proves their learning, reflecting on the resources, and acting to share their insights with others within their classroom community, and across the globe.

To access my full lesson plan that contains more detailed information, please click here.



Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, Ky: CreateSpace?.



Using Kahoot’s Game-Based Mechanics to Engage Classroom Learners with ADHD

In one of my graduate courses (CEP 812) this week, I spent some time researching learning strategies to help students with learning impairments, specific to my classroom setting.  The disorder that I chose to research, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is one that afflicts so many students with whom I work–for that reason, I have explored the disorder in a white paper.  In the paper, I present information on the disorder from the APA and other scholars, present research that suggests the Universal Design for Learning may provide a solution to disengaged learners in the classroom, and present a tool that embodies these characteristics: Kahoot.  To read the full-length white paper, please click here.

For more information on Kahoot!, please take a few minutes to preview the following video:

Finally, I provide a quiz below that shows an example of how the tool might be used to effectively assess students with ADHD.  Follow this link to view the model Kahoot! quiz that I used in my classroom.



Rios, Roland. (2014). Kahoot! An Introduction. Retrieved 6 June 2014, from

Joining the Evernote Bandwagon: Be There or Be Square

Before I get into any further explanation, I just have to say that I love, love, love, Evernote.

Evernote is the next generation of productivity software.  It can be used to take notes, create lists, stow away Internet resources using its Web Clipper, and so much more (does this sound like an infomercial yet?).

To bring you up to speed, check out this quick overview tutorial of Evernote–courtesy of OwlLeague:

In a more aesthetically pleasing format that is infinities better than Google Drive, it can clip websites and place them into “notebooks” for your later viewing pleasure.  Not only that, the tool allows you to screen capture web pages.

Here is

This photo demonstrates the use of the Evernote Web Clipper in multiple ways: to show you what the Evernote interface looks and feels like, as well as showing what the screen capturing/annotating feature can do.

This tool is excellent for organization of every day tasks, but also suits itself impeccably well to the student lifestyle.  Use Evernote to clip articles for research and organize them into notebooks for later review, as well as annotate resources and save the marked-up copies.

If you are seeking out software to help you be more productive, gather resources, or streamline your workflow, Evernote is the way to go–just in case you didn’t already know.

Update on My Networked Learning Project

As some of you may or may not remember, I began a journey a couple of weeks ago to test and prove, for myself and for others, the power of networked learning.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have been attempting to teach myself how to do something, using only YouTube and online help forums to facilitate my learning.  My “something” was learning how to play a song on the guitar–something that I have always wanted to do, and have tried to do before, but just never had the guts, nor the patience, to stick with.

To recap, here are some of the resources that I’ve been using to teach myself how to play:

Play TEN guitar songs with two EASY chords! | Beginner’s First Guitar Lesson

Learn How to Play Easy Beginner Acoustic Guitar Songs

Play 10 Songs with 4 Chords

These resources have proven to be invaluable to me (particularly the first and second videos).  The first video does a great job of teaching the individual chords.  Not only does Mr. Crowley alter the camera angle to mimic your point-of-view, but he also spends some time charting out visuals of the chords for us slowpokes to use for learning (and he even has a handy guitar-tuner companion video! This guy rocks.).  The second video allows me to take the learnings from the first video and apply them to learning something a bit more difficult.  The chords that I am focusing on are played at the beginning of this video: C add 9, G, and E minor 7.  Mr. Schwartz teaches in a way that I am immediately able to use what I have learned, and I really appreciate that.

To chart the progress I've made, here is a photo of me performing with my band--no guitar included.

To chart the progress I’ve made, here is a photo of me performing with my band–no guitar included.

And here are the callouses and indentions in my fingers from playing the past couple of weeks.

And here are the callouses and indentions in my fingers from playing the past couple of weeks.  Better late than never!

However, unlike the skill and prowess of these gentlemen, I knew that I was not going to be able to play a song overnight.  Rather, I decided to spend most of my recent time just focusing on learning a few chords well.  One of the greatest challenges that I have faced since starting this journey is fine-tuning my ability to transition smoothly from one chord to the next–frankly, my fingers weren’t built to stand pushing down on metal this long (I have already begun wearing callouses into my fingers).  However, my manly bravado wouldn’t let me stop pushing myself–even when I thought for sure that my fingers were going to bleed.  While I have spent a great deal of time working on honing this skill, it has not been an easy task and will undoubtedly take some more time to perfect (especially as the chords grow more difficult–D is especially challenging for me at this point, and I still can’t get it right).

Here is a video to show my progress so far:

Since I started practicing and trying to get better, though, I think I have decided that I am going to make this a bit more difficult for myself.  I am going to [attempt to] play a self-written song.  I may only have one week to make it happen, but who says I can’t do it?  Stay tuned to see what happens between now and the end of this week!

Five Weeks to Gamification: Designing My Ultra-Micro MOOC

Learning theories and Universal and Backwards Design are vital parts of the design of engaging online learning experiences.  In one of the graduate courses that I am currently taking, I have had the opportunity to explore different innovative elements of technological education–especially the Maker Movement.  This week, I spent an extended amount of time designing an “Ultra Micro MOOC” related to gamification.  In my Gamifying Pedagogy course, my peers will master critical skills related to the gamification of lessons by modifying a unit and creating a video tutorial, in collaborative groups.

Course Topic: Gamifying the Lesson Planning Process

Course Title: Five Weeks to Gamification: Modifying Curriculum and Altering the Planning Process


This course is designed to facilitate the learning experiences of beginning and mid-career teachers who are looking to create lesson plans that engage students in fast-paced, interactive 21st Century instruction.  Additionally, peers who would like to implement gamification strategies in their schools on a large scale are equipped, through the course, with the skillset to do so.

In collaborative Base Groups, peers will create a video tutorial showing how they might instruct peers in their local settings about how to gamify their existing curriculum.  Additionally, peers will design and share a unit plan (that could be used in their settings) to prove their learning, and serve as a model for those whom they are instructing.  These videos should contain a combination of model teaching practices, pedagogical theory related to gamification, and best practices for gamifying curriculum in a manner that is accessible to students.  The objective for this product is that by engaging in design thinking while applying learning, peers will walk away with something they can use in the classroom and share with others.

This course will be a short one–deemed an “Ultra Micro MOOC”–at just five weeks in length.  During this time, peers will take a week at a time to move through each step of the ADDIE framework.  ADDIE is an instructional systems design model that consists of the following steps:

  • Analysis
  • Design
  • Development
  • Implementation
  • Evaluation

The course will be designed to proceed, a week at a time, through each level of this model.  The beginning of the course will be heavier on theory, consisting of extensive readings and evaluation, and will proceed into a focus on the end product, leaning toward a heavy emphasis on design thinking and relevance to setting.  The activities, then, will build upon each other in a scaffolded manner.  As we move into the stages of Development, Implementation and Evaluation, the activities’ alignment with the TPACK framework becomes clearer.  Peers will blog consistently throughout each week, including a blog that requires them to post and chart the revision of the their lesson plans into a gamified curriculum (at the beginning, this would include the introduction of a scoreboard/competitive element).  The content knowledge, or the principles of gamification, is delivered and demonstrated from the beginning of the course through ADDIE.  The pedagogical knowledge through its application to both the pedagogy of the MOOC itself and to the topic of gamifying instruction.  Finally, the technology of blogging and the MOOC itself globalize the content of the course, making the purpose of technology vital to carrying out the mission of the course.

In the course, peers will help each other by serving as collaborators in design groups.  Additionally, they will be accessible to one another outside of groups, via Twitter or Google Hangouts, to field questions in the event that the instructor cannot be reached.  They will be assigned to evaluate the work of one another for integrity and offer feedback, as well.

The design of this course works on the premise that peers will take their learnings back to their local work settings and share, through some type of professional learning experience.  The tangible product of learning in this instance, the video tutorial, may be used as a building block to designing a flipped, gamified professional learning experience in LEAs.  Because of the focus on pedagogical and instructional design that this course emphasizes, the course is designed using to ADDIE framework to provide peers with a model to deliberate the purpose of the course for Universal Design.

In other words, the ADDIE framework design allows peers and I to take a metapedagogical approach to the course that facilitates its dual purpose: not only to provide teachers with a skillset to modify their own instruction reflecting that of gamification, but also to be able to adapt and share that skillset with other peers who are not enrolled in the MOOC.  This freedom, distribution, and continued impact is what captures and perpetuates the spirit of the MOOC.


Sandi Romero, Hairol, et al. (2013). Gamification techniques [JPEG].  Cancun, Mexico: Latin American and Carribean Conference for Engineering and Technology, 2013.

Following the “Sun”: Reimagining Learning and Constructing Meaning with Maker Faire

Last week, I discussed and presented a full lesson plan inspired by maker faire.  This project utilized the repurposing of a thrift store item with a product created using a Maker Kit: in my case, a 3D printed sundial.

This week, I revisited that lesson plan to think about it in the context of another learning style: constructivism.  In an examination of Richard Culatta’s perspectives, he would likely deem constructivism as his ideal learning theory.  In his TED Talk, Reimagining Learning, he states that there is a serious digital divide taking place before our eyes in the world related to learning theory and technology: “the divide between those who know how to use technology to reimagine learning, and those who simply use technology to digitize traditional learning practices” (Culatta).

As I was thinking about this idea of how learning theories impact education, and how my practices contest the formation of this digital divide, I conducted some research on constructivism.  In my research, I came across two articles: “Demographic Factors, TPACK Constructs, and Teachers’ Perceptions of Constructivist-Oriented TPACK” (Koh, et al, 2014), and “Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features From an Instructional Design Perspective (Ertmer & Newby, 2013).

When appraising the importance of thinking about learning theories and pedagogy, the Ertmer and Newby article helped me to understand why this assignment matters.  The link between effective learning experiences and learning theories “is not between the design of instruction and an autonomous body of knowledge about instructional phenomena, but between instructional design issues and the theories of human learning”(Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 44).  In other words, my focus on constructivism as the learning theory behind my lesson plan is not done simply for the sake of aligning with innovative practices or, specifically, “constructivism,” but to appeal to the human condition in an effort to fully and creatively engage students.  This is what “reimagining learning” is truly about.

Put simply, Ertmer & Newby state that “constructivism is a theory that equates learning with creating meaning from experience . . . [in constructivism] humans create meaning as opposed to acquiring it” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 55).  In their evaluation of the learning theory, the authors conclude that “[b]eing knowledgeable about [constructivism] provides designers with the flexibility needed to be spontaneous and creative when a first attempt doesn’t work” (Ertmer & Newby, 2013, p. 62).

The second article by Koh (et al) applies this theory of constructivism by manipulating the TPACK framework to support the creation of meaning.  This framework, called the “constructivist-oriented technological pedagogical content knowledge” framework, was tested for effectiveness among 354 practicing teachers in Singapore (Koh et al, 2014, p. 185).  It was found that teachers who have more experience are generally less confident than younger teachers when it comes to effectively implementing constructivist learning initiatives, such as project-based learning (Koh et al, 2014, p. 193).  This article suggests that constructivism can be effective technological pedagogical knowledge .  In theory, this model could serve as a framework to bridge Culatta’s digital divide, ensuring the effective integration of technology.

The Sundial working in action.

The Sundial working in action.

My plan for teaching that utilized the 3D-printed Sundial situates itself well amongst these constructivist ideologies.  At the end of the plan, students are assigned a project that mimics their learning and requires them to create new ideas derived from their understanding of the sundial learning activity.

To recap the plan, after study of the physical properties of the sundial to transition their thinking from literal to the metaphorical, students are tasked with thinking about an object–any object of their choosing (out of the box thinking is encouraged!)–and finding a way to relate it to time (the central concept for the lesson).  Once they have identified an object, they are asked to write a poem from the perspective of that object, in much the same way as Van Dyke does with the sundial in the sample of poetry that is discussed.  Some examples that students could create include a time capsule talking about carrying pieces of time as it watches time pass, how a tree perceives the passing of time, and so on.  Students must bring their object into class–they must replicate the item using clay, paper, etc. to create a model for “show and tell,” much the same as the sundial clock.  Piaget’s original constructivist philosophies are ever-present within my lesson–and by providing students with the agency to project their own understanding of meaning onto everyday objects, they are creating engaging products that can have an impact on the humanity of their fellow classmates.  Referring to Culatta’s ideals, again, my lesson not only manipulates innovative Maker technology, but also abides by the Maker philosophy that guides students to their own learning nirvana.

What I learned from my research was invaluable: the learning theory of constructivism has incredible potential to inspire students when used in conjunction with Maker faire.  Students who have been provided with the agency to create ideas and knowledge are forever stronger human beings than those who can merely emulate. This project has had a persistent impact on my understandings of how cognition and learning theory interweave themselves into the pedagogical strategies and frameworks that we take for granted.  I cannot wait to see the impact that it might have on my students.



Culatta, Richard (2013). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Jun. 2014].

Ertmer, P.A. & Newby, T.J. Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective.  International Society for Performance Improvement6, 43-71.

Koh, Joyce H.L. et al. (2014). Demographic factors, TPACK constructs, and teachers’ perceptions of constructivist-oriented TPACK.  Journal Of Educational Technology & Society,17(1), 185-196.

Changing My “Infodiet”: Or, My PLN Paradigm Shift

In his 2013 text, The Anti-Education Era, James Paul Gee asks a question many teachers now are afraid to: “Is there a sense of ‘we’ that does not diminish but enhances the dignity and creativity of each and every human being?” (Gee, 2013, p. 153). Human beings find meaning through relationships, and as Gee notes, are not primarily oriented toward evidence or truth.

After reflecting upon Gee’s ideas in his 2013 text The Anti-Education Era, I embarked on an assignment for a graduate course that I am taking as a part of the Educational Technology Certificate at Michigan State University.  The assignment asks me to reexamine my own perspectives by identifying three new sources of information for our Professional Learning Network that do not agree with my perspectives.

My PLN prior this assignment.

My PLN prior to this assignment.

In an evaluation of the state of my PLN prior to this assignment, I am oriented toward affinity spaces that are in support and complement of my interests.  When I created my PLN on Twitter, all of the people I followed were people and organizations that supported my passions and perspectives regarding teaching, education and technology integration.

First, I examined the blog, “Hack Education.”  At first glance, this blog seemed controversial, citing that “[e]ducation isn’t just about how ed-tech changes “the system.” It is about the future of learning.  Yes, there’s a distinction there.)” (Watters).  This statement threw me off a bit, as we have just read in Gee’s book that institutions (or “systems” that are consistent and do not change) are modified by innovations that digital tools bring to us.

I enjoyed reviewing the blog, though it did challenge my thinking.  One of her recent articles, Against “Innovation,” talks about how Google Glass and other tech innovations are widening a digital divide that is centered on “technology, innovation, and ideology – a ‘tech culture war’ as the headline writers at Salon seem to really really like to call it” (Watters).

Following my evaluation of “Hack Education,” I examined the blog “The Fischbowl” before proceeding to add it to my RSS feed.  The article that inspired me to step into foreign territory was Karl Fisch’s “Why I Wouldn’t TurnItIn.”  This blog post takes a moral perspective on the widely-known and utilized plagiarism tool, “TurnItIn,” citing that “by contracting with Turnitin, you’re basically agreeing to submit your students’ work to a large corporation so that they can use that work to make money. The more folks that use Turnitin, and the more student work that is submitted, the more valuable it becomes for Turnitin. You’re allowing (actually, enabling) a corporation to monetize the intellectual property of your students” (Fisch).

This post really affected my thinking, because as an English/Language Arts Teacher, I am really supportive of digital tools that aid me in reducing my workload and holding students to high standards regarding plagiarism and honor code that I may not always detect.  Fisch’s article helped me to open my perspective to how corporate, big-box, “Silicon Valley” education exploiters can seem like wolves wrapped in sheep’s clothing.  After reading this article, I began to question my use of the tool, and many others like it.  What am I allowing to happen to my students’ work?  Of course, I am a big proponent of the Creative Commons movement for copyright because of its maker support for others.  But what kind of manipulations and accusations can TurnItIn blacklist our students with?  While there are a lot of things to consider with this post, I am going to continue thinking and researching Fisch’s ideas (especially related to intellectual property).

Finally, I added the blog “Dangerously Irrelevant” to my infodiet.  One article, “Thinkers v. Producers,” inspired me to add the blog to my affinity space.  In the post, Scott McLeod discusses John Holt’s ideas distinction between “producers,” or students who are only interested in getting the right answers (or valuing the destination over the journey) and “thinkers,” or students who actually evaluate for the meaning of the content they are working with.  McLeod’s big question, “What is an average school day like for those students in our school(s) who ARE thinkers?,” really helped me to think deeply about what it means to be a teacher (McLeod).  Through the reexamination of the role of students in schools, it helped me to reexamine my role as a teacher, and helped me to ask myself a bigger question: What do I need to do to to help convert producers to thinkers?

This is a visual representation of my updated PLN.

This is a visual representation of my updated PLN.

The perspectives from the blogs that I examined on this journey really contrasted with my own, but the important thing is that I know how important it is to do the difficult thing.  By adjusting my own affinity spaces, and becoming a part of others whose perspectives differ from mine, I can only become a better teacher, thinker, worker, and leader.

As the MSU Educational Technology certificate has taught me to be: a better innovator.



Fisch, Karl. (2014). The fischbowl: why i wouldn’t turnitin. Retrieved 30 May 2014, from

Gee, James P.  (2013).  The anti-education era:  creating smarter students through digital learning.  New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

McLeod, S. (2014). Thinkers v. producers | dangerously irrelevant. Retrieved 30 May 2014, from

Watters, A. (2014). Against “innovation” #cnie2014.  Retrieved 30 May 2014, from