Components of 21st Century Learning In Our Classroom

21st century skills can sometimes be an amorphous term subject to interpretation. The term "21st century skills" is generally used to refer to certain core competencies that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today's world. Some of these competencies that we seek to develop in the multiage program are: 

Learning and Innovation Skills:

critical thinking includes the use of key components across the curriculum including various types of reasoning (either inductive or deductive as appropriate to the situation), using systems thinking to analyze complex systems to determine how parts of a whole interact with one another, identifying and asking critical questions, analyzing and evaluating evidence and arguments, making connections between information and arguments, interpreting information and drawing conclusions, analyzing alternative points of view and reflecting critically on our learning processes and experiences. Critical thinking is also developed through coding lessons and coding activities that are available during choice time. We participate in The Hour of Code and use the resources from Code.org throughout the year. We have Lego We Do kits and other coding materials. Finally, project based inquiry units are used across the curriculum to enhance critical thinking.

creative thinking embraces techniques like brainstorming or the process of design thinking to create new ideas and refine them. One of the new additions to our classroom is a Maker Cart. The cart is stocked with materials ranging from paper tubes to buttons to 3-D printing pens. The Maker Cart allows students to use many mediums to show their learning across the curriculum. The design process model is used for creations in science, social studies and math. At the core of our creative thinking endeavors is a growth mindset. We deliberately work to develop a growth mindset through group activities and explorations, especially highlighting the view of failure as an opportunity to learn and the understanding that creativity and innovation is an ongoing cycle of setbacks and successes. Creative thinking and innovation involves creating and refining new ideas not through the genius of a few but through the collaboration of many. Creativity involves cultivating an open responsiveness to diverse perspectives.

"My contention is that creativity is now as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with the same status."
     - Sir Ken Robinson

collaboration and communication

At the heart of our collaborative efforts is the value of individual contributions, yet a willingness to assume a shared responsibility for collaborative work. An attitude of respect for others as well as an attitude of flexibility and a willingness to compromise are key to successful collaboration. Collaboration takes many forms. There is the collaboration of partnerships and small groups within the classroom. There is also the collaboration we have with other classrooms within Trombly.  We are science buddies with Mrs. McVicar's kindergarten class. We explore inquiry activities together. We are also buddies with Mrs. Ozar/Mrs. Roy's fifth grade. We participate in a range of activities ranging from art projects to research projects in social studies to writing projects or holiday activities. The multiage class has also established a partnership with Mrs. Golus's third grade classroom. We will be partners in our new business Grow With the Flow Hydroponics. We not only collaborate with other students at Trombly but we form partnerships with adults outside of our classroom.  As a part of a Science PBL project, the class wrote a grant asking the Trombly PTO for funds to build a Certified National Wildlife Habitat. The PTO funded our request. After receiving those funds, and, after a few years of work, we have received certification as a National Wildlife Butterfly Habitat. We continue to collaborate with them to  develop this area. Students are also in the process of connecting with local gardening businesses/experts and other experts in the state to determine what additional plants or other items would be best added to the garden.

Our collaboration also takes place in ever widening circles beyond Trombly. Last year, we connected with classes both in and outside of the United States. It is our goal to create a global awareness in making connections with other classrooms. During the Global Read Aloud we partnered with classes in Oregon and Illinois. We also partnered with classes in Dallas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Massachusetts. In addition to those partnerships, we connected with classes in Vancouver and Buenos Aries. One set of partnerships led to the creation of small literature groups on the digital platform Edmodo. These literature groups were comprised of students from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina and our classroom. What an opportunity it was for our students to participate in literature groups that spanned four states!

Communication skills are intertwined with our collaboration skills. It is our goal for our students to be able to clearly articulate their thoughts and ideas to people from many types of backgrounds as well as to be able to communicate for many different purposes.

Literacy Skills:

information literacy

 Our goal is for students to access information efficiently and effectively. This includes identifying relevant and reliable resources that meet their needs and student identification of digital tools and resources that match their purpose.

technology literacy

We use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate and communicate information.

media literacy

We work to understand the purpose behind our media messages, and we work to understand and identify the media creation tools best suited to our purpose. Further, we construct our media projects in a manner that will allow those projects to reach people from many backgrounds.

Life Skills:

Initiative and Self - Direction

Students will be able to set goals and criteria for success and utilize their time and resources effectively in order to meet those goals.

Flexibility and Adaptability

Students work to adapt to their various roles and challenges in the classroom including working with a variety of people in varied groupings and settings for different purposes. They are able to reach workable solutions with students who hold different viewpoints and they are also able to incorporate feedback and deal with setbacks and criticism in a positive manner.

Social Skills

Students are able to work effectively with people from a range of backgrounds. In order to do so they develop their social language use or pragmatics- knowing when to speak and when to listen, how to use eye contact, how to rephrase, how to use language for different purposes, and how to change language according to the needs of the listener or the situation. Students also work to know how to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to a given situation.

 

Flexible Seating

Flexible classrooms give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and help them to work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking. Students are encouraged to be strategic about their seating choices, considering the task at hand and how they learn best. Students choose what best helps them, for example some may sit on cushions or benches, while others lie on their stomach, and still others may choose to stand. Students create their possibilities. The placement of furniture is based on various zones within the classroom such as a mindfulness zone, a discovery zone, a collaboration zone etc. Tables and other items are easily movable depending upon the activity or student need. For example, tables covered in white board paint can be moved in various configurations for students collaborating with the capture board at the back of the room.

 

Digital Tools

Digital tools are used to be more than paperless worksheets. The transformative power of technology is recognized. Digital tools are used to transform lessons and create experiences that we could not have were it not for the technology. Technology is used to enhance critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and innovation. The focus is always on the learning not on the digital tool. The Triple E Framework is often used to create digital lessons. The SAMR Model and T-Pack framework are also considered in digital lesson design. The multiage classroom has a SMART Board, a Kappa capture board, ipads, chrome books, desk top computers and other tools like ipevo cameras. The Grosse Pointe Foundation For Public Education provided two grants which have funded our digital tools. We are most grateful to them. They have given us the means to transform teaching and learning within the Multiage Classroom. Beginning of the year lessons include lessons on digital citizenship and netiquette before any digital tools are used.

 

Digital Portfolios

Digital portfolios are key in giving students the responsibility for reflection and demonstrating their learning. They promote goal setting, planning and self - evaluation. Digital portfolios are used for three purposes in our classroom. They are used to show the process of student work. It tells the story of a student's journey and progress. It is a learning journal with digital posts, reflections, photos, videos and other artifacts. The process portfolio is the work in progress. We also use portfolios as a showcase of best work and as an evaluative tool that provides formative and summative assessments. Our students have Evernote portfolios and SeeSaw portfolios which house their work.