How does a 21st Century mindset impact teaching and learning?
Isn’t that a loaded question? What exactly is a 21st Century mindset? Let’s start with some definitions that I copied from my iPad We decided to work on these major parts:
Collaboration– teaming and cooperative interaction between the students
Creativity – allowing the students to use their imagination to solve problems
Critical Thinking – creative problem solving
Communication – the interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, signs, or art.

In my mind, this was going to be a journey – a passage or progress from one stage to another. A journey by farther definition usually takes a long time. So, with my definitions before me, I set out on a journey to reach my students. To guide them in their inquiry to discover their own style of learning using these new skills. My job was to provide them with the opportunity to use 21st Century skills to discover new ways to learn and express themselves. I would have to use these skills myself in order to guide them on their journey. Quite the collaboration of learning going on here, I learn from them, they learn from each other.


I have to start by saying that I teach social studies and communications. I gave many opportunities for my students to use the 21st Century skills. I had a few BIG projects and bunches of tiny ones. My first Big project idea was with my communications class. After viewing the installation art piece from the Mattress Factory, I was inspired to turn my students loose to create their own installation piece. The stairwell was the perfect choice, providing the necessary dark corridor that students would pass through. I described the objective – create an atmosphere that would promote a desired emotional response from the students passing through it. I gave the following criteria:
a. (In pairs) choose a mood or theme for their art piece
b. take digital pictures and/or find free photos on-line
c. make a sideshow
d. install the projected images
e. write a reflection of their work, what they expect student reaction to be, what is their reaction to their work.
f. observe and ask interview questions of students reaction as they change classes in the stairwell.
g. write reflections of student reaction and evaluate their own success.

This all seemed simple enough and the project moved quickly and smoothly! They were very motivated and excited to create something of their own interest! I had everything from war to peace – and everything in between. I can’t say that any of the shows were unsuccessful – they all created an emotional response. Interestingly, I wasn’t thinking of other age groups passing through. I ended up interviewing a kindergarten class, or a group of adults passing through. Students were sent to interview teachers who had a strong response. It really was amazing. Students really thought about the order the slides presented as creating an emotion. I was amazed to say the least. Most importantly, the students were amazed with what they created. The written responses did not show nearly what everyone felt, we were not successful at capturing that effect. I tried videotaping, but it was too dark to see the student’s faces, the sound said it all.

Soon after starting this year’s Art’s Educator group, my school installed interactive white boards. I brought in my iPads, video cameras, and document camera. After giving them a little time to check them out, I gave a PollDaddy survey.
From the results, I knew they were open to try the new technology with enthusiasm. I set to work to discover ways to turn them loose.

I offered the use of the Interactive white board to make graphic organizers to help with essay responses to social studies tests. They loved creating fun ways to remember mundane information.

Students had finished writing their research papers for Black History month. Although they did the research, they have found the project boring and less than motivating. I decided that the presentation portion of this project should take on a new "21st Century Skills" light! The options listed below for presentation method was a definite turn on for motivation. Students were permitted to take home the iPad or vado cameras overnight to do their projects. This show of trust opened new doors for students who have no technology at home and do not always feel trusted by adults. This communicated my faith in them!
1. Students may work in pairs or groups to complete their projects, but each student must complete their Biography presentation alone. This collaboration allows them to teach each other a process they may be familiar with and give each other a little confidence in trying something new.
2. Students may choose any presentation method they wish to use. This is intended to promote creativity among the students. Many types of technology are also available to the students for their creations. I have demonstrated the use of a few apps on the iPad that they may use and how to make a "paper slide" video cast. (These are commonly seen on youtube by Commoncraft) They have chosen:
Story kit - app on iPad
Songmaker - app on iPad songmaker.jpg
Paperslide video using document camera

Untitled from Lorraine Kelly on Vimeo.

Timeline using additional computer research
Foster - poster app on iPad
Poster - using artistic personal design
3. All presentations must be given to the class by one student and will be graded using the 21st Century Skills rubric.

The last BIG project I did with my communications class was a unit on Romeo and Juliet. We finished the project by having the students write a summary of the play. They wrote about the plot and the theme of the play. They turned it into a rap by rhyming it and setting it to music on the SongMaker app. This was such a successful project of using higher order critical thinking. They wanted to tell the whole story but also discuss the theme and its importance to them.
I gave another polldaddy survey to analyze the growth of my students and my teaching. This proved to me that the students were open to learning in new ways, in communicating what they had learned in new ways, and were willing to collaborate in the projects.
To summarize my journey, I would have to start by saying that it was not made alone. My CIG was my direction – giving me enough to go boldly where I have never gone before! My students were my motivation, enthusiastic when I was exhausted. Together, we all made long strides toward a new way of teaching and learning. I will never plan, teach, or assess a lesson the same way again. My plans now all include the development of the 21st Century skills my students need to become successful. I am ready to facilitate their learning, take cues from my students as to what direction we will go together. I know that they are now ready to go forward with this type of learning. When I said that they needed to present information about any memorial or building in Washington DC before their field trip, they were anxious to sign up, asked, “Are there were any imitations as to how we can create our presentations?” – I knew they were 21st Century learners!

For more of Lorraine's student work and reflections please visit her archives.