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.
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?.