“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” – Bill Gates

CEP 810: 21st Century Learning in the Classroom

on June 10, 2014

The idea of integrating 21st century technologies into the classroom is one that many teachers support, yet it is also an idea that is easier said than done. Additionally, simply having technology in the classroom is far different than maximizing its potential. Thomas Friedman (2013) writes that “the capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.” Essentially, this means that learning how to interpret information and to create something out that content is far more important than regurgitating information. In the 21st century, application and innovation trump memorization and recall.

This week in CEP 810, I had the opportunity to create a lesson plan that not only follows my 5th grade social studies curriculum, but also integrates technology in a meaningful, purposeful way. In my lesson, found here, students have the opportunity to use Skitch on iPads to observe, analyze, and wonder about two separate images of the Boston Massacre. The Paul Revere image depicts the events of the Boston Massacre quite differently than the Alonzo Chappel image. Using Skitch, pairs will be able to express their ideas about the images in a comfortable, non-threatening environment prior to class discussion.

In Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011), Renee Hobbs states that students should use “critical thinking to analyze message purpose, target audience, quality, veracity, credibility, point of view, and potential effects or consequences of messages.”  Seeing two very different depictions of the same event will prompt the question, “Why would the artists show different versions of the same event?” Students will ponder how artists’ bias and motives influence their work, as well as the effect that such propaganda would have had on the colonies. Which artist victimized the British soldiers? Which artist showed a crowd of rioters? Does the immediacy of the image matter in its reliability? All of these questions are posed during the lesson.

Post-discussion, students will be asked to create a short presentation using Animoto to express their thoughts regarding each artist’s depiction of events, the reasoning behind the artists’ choices, and how bias can influence history. Students will conclude their presentations by explaining how one can determine a source’s reliability. During this process, students will have to access relevant information, critically analyze the message of the artists, create a presentation that is aware of its audience, imagine the thought processes of the artists, and work collaboratively to share knowledge. These practices follow the skills that Hobbs (2011) lists as fundamental to learning in the 21st century. In essence, students need to be given the opportunity to explore, to analyze, to evaluate, and to create in a safe environment that is supervised by someone who can offer guidance. In order to cultivate a classroom of innovators, students have to be given the opportunity to create and think for themselves, with access to the appropriate tools. A 21st century classroom will foster just that.


Friedman, T. L. (2013, March 31). Need a job? Invent it. The New York Times, p.SR11.

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



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