• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

What is a 21st Century Learner?

imagesWhat is a 21st century learner? Equally important, what does a 21st century classroom look like? It’s important that students learn the same content they always have. They will need reading and writing, math, science, and social studies. They will also need interpersonal skills like teamwork and collaboration, as well as skills learned on the playground like sharing, being polite, and dealing with bullies. So far, not much change from the 20th century classrooms that taught me.

So what is different today? Teachers must prepare students for a very different future than my teachers prepared me for. I learned from my teacher in the classroom. The teacher talked to us, and we listened. Then we completed worksheets and were graded on points correct out of points possible. A lot of that is still valid.

The world, however, is changing at a much faster pace now, and every bit of it is broadcast to devices in our students’ backpacks. Students must be taught to navigate social media, create digital content, and locate effective information. Learning has exploded from teacher-directed, in-the-classroom, fact-based answers, becoming much more student-directed. Students learn any time of day, by actively researching, blogging, or discussing online. They collaborate in teams to create authentic products that have value outside the classroom.

So back to the question in paragraph one. What does a 21st century classroom look like? Step into my sixth grade classroom. The walls are lined with books, and team-created student posters illustrate the latest math concepts. Each student has a Chromebook on their desk. They begin a typical day by editing sentences, interacting with a Smartboard and writing in their binders. Reading is still done with real books, although after a lesson the students open their lids and log on to Google Classroom. All their assigned work is there, as well as grades for what they submitted yesterday. Students may choose to use Google Docs to write a Reading analysis letter or essay, or take an online quiz in Social Studies. They may access a fact practice website for Math, Reading, or Writing. They may work on their eportfolio, especially in Science.

After recess, they log on to their online Math books and use virtual Base Ten Blocks to work in their teams, changing between fractions, decimals, and percents. During Science, they complete a Lab on the Food Chain, or discuss the solar ovens they built at home. Phones are pulled out to take pictures and video that is then uploaded to their portfolio. On Friday, they have Genius Hour, where they work on a project of their choice and blog about it.

After lunch, they work on their Social Studies packets, choosing between activities to learn about Mesopotamia. They research online and visit websites with virtual tours of ancient sites, or activities like writing their name in cuneiform.

Assignments are not given to be completed by the next day (except for Math). Students have several days, a week, or even a month to work with each other and the teacher to create work, in class and at home, that truly reflects what they are learning. They love the Chromebooks, and when they are publishing work to the world they are very careful to put forth their very best work. They are completely engaged in learning content by using technology skills to discover and share it.

In my 21st century classroom, students learn the same content they always have: reading and writing, math, science, and social studies. They collaborate in teams and learn to be good citizens in person and online. They have many more opportunities to learn than I did, and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

 

Behavior Management

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Managing the classroom behavior is something every teacher struggles with. Some classes are harder to deal with than others, but they all require some system of reward and consequence to keep the peace and allow lessons to occur without disruption. In the twenty years I’ve taught, behavior management has included some combination of earning Behavior Bucks for a monthly auction, changing seat assignments, being benched for recess or referred to the principal, and emails sent home to parents. I’ve never had a serious problem with behavior until this year.

Without going into the specifics of the behaviors (that would be too long a post!), I wanted to share my solution. At the CUE conference in Palm Springs this year, I learned about CLASSCRAFT.COM and could hardly wait to get home to try it.

Classcraft is a free web-based behavior management video game designed for sixth grade through high school. The interface is colorful and fanciful–it truly looks like a video game. Students log on and choose an avatar. They are put in teams where they classcraft_bg1choose the team name and logo. They also must designate team members as warrior, mage, or healer.  Students earn XP (experience points) for behaving well in class. They lose HP (health points) for breaking a rule. AP (action points) are spent healing each other–this is important because if a teammate falls in battle the rest of the team loses 10 HP and may fall, too.

One of the coolest features is the parent piece. Parents set up an account that links with their child’s. They can see what their child receives each day for rewards or consequences. They can award their child GP (gold points) for doing chores, having a positive attitude, and finishing homework. GP doesn’t affect my part of the game because those points can only be used to buy accessories for the avatar like armor and pets.

The game comes with a set of rules, rewards, and punishments (like becoming ogrefied and having to sit alone at lunch for a day) but is completely customizable by the teacher, from rules to rewards to Random Events of the Day and punishments for those fallen in battle (who lose all their XP). Every morning I log on to the game and dole out rewards and punishments for the day before and conduct a Random Event. The entire thing takes ten to fifteen minutes.

Most importantly, it works. My class has been rather notorious around campus this year. I added a big reward for receiving a compliment from an adult on campus. Within the first week, the principal, a teacher, and a yard duty all gave them unsolicited compliments. I was very impressed. The students were very proud of themselves. They follow the game without reminders. One day a noon duty told me she asked one of my students why they were sitting alone. “I’ve been ogrefied,” the student said in a perfectly normal tone. I laughed, but the noon duty was very puzzled.

We’ve been playing the game now for two months. They are just as excited now as the day we started. Their behavior hasn’t been perfect, but what fun is the game if someone doesn’t occasionally fall in battle and become ogrefied?

 

 

Tech 1; Teacher 0

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Teachers plan for weeks for the first day of school. Handouts are copied, art projects prepared, desks set up…and computers plugged in. Today was the first day of school for me, and I welcomed 34 sixth graders. Now keep in mind that I hooked up my computer, document camera, printer, and smart board yesterday and everything worked.

So today I went to project my first day presentation, and I didn’t have the right pigtail that connects my computer to the projector. I’d left it at home. Another teacher and I fiddled with our schedules so that I could use hers when she was done. I turned on my doc cam and had to turn it off and on three times before it worked. Later, I went to use my older computer, the one I had the correct pigtail for, and the connection didn’t work. I tried other computers, still didn’t work. That trusty pigtail that I’ve used for years is dead. And one of the computers I unplugged blacked out–battery is dead. I tried to log on to Google Drive to show a slide show, and my poor tired old computer fixated itself in an old student’s account. It would not log into mine. I finally decided to print the slides and show them under the doc cam. If you’re paying attention, you probably know what happened next. Printer was out of ink.

So I spent the day in a state of frustrated discombobulation. My wonderful new students were very patient, but I’m sure I came off as horrible disorganized. Tonight I will sleep. Tomorrow I will banish the tech devils in my classroom. And it will be a better day.

Tech Inspiration

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I just returned home after attending the CUE 2015 conference in Palm Springs, California, for Computer Using Educators. Conferences are always inspiring, and this time I picked up a bunch of new ideas I can use immediately! Among the tech coming soon to my classroom:

1. Minecraft.edu  This is an educational version of the popular game. We are already using it to build landmarks in ancient civilizations. Now I can use it in language arts–imagine building a scene from a novel!

2. Google Classroom   Truly on the way to a paperless classroom, this allows students to receive assignments, complete them on Google Docs, and turn them in. They can provide feedback, save them to their own Goodle Drive, and create Google Forms. I can also use Google Forms for online quizzes!

3. Kidblog  A safe way for students to each have their own blog. Teachers monitor content, of course. We’ll also participate in Quadblogging, where four classes share a month. One class blogs for a week while the other three focus on commenting on the blogs. Then the second class blogs for a week, and the others comment, etc. What wonderful feedback!

4. Skype  is a marvelous face-to-face opportunity for students. I envision Skyping with a park ranger next year before visiting Alcatraz, with another class participating in NaNoWriMo, maybe with the NaNoWriMo director or even the vice mayor of San Jose!

Four ways that will challenge me to engage more students and teach them digital citizenship through daily Internet use. Now I just need to hijack the iPad cart…or get one of my own.

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