The “Why?” And “What If..?” of Tomorrow

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Two questions for today that inform tomorrow: “Why?” And “What If…?”

Jeff Utecht recently published his thoughts around ideas we’ve been playing with since the inception of organized education:  Communication, Collaboration, Creativity and Critical Thinking.  In his post, Jeff revisits the 4 C’s based upon significant changes in our world.  The underpinnings of each are defined the same way, but how these underpinnings are applied to our global learning community is critically different.  Jeff took these pieces from a conceptual framework to a living, breathing manifesto of practice.  This manifesto creates an undeniable sense of urgency to understand how to actualize these principles in everyday practices of teaching and learning.


Considering the 4 C’s,  please share one professional practice in which you engage that mirrors the efforts and mindset that Jeff describes.

    Why do you do this?  (Why bother?)

 Which one of the practices described inspires you?  Which might inspire your learners?

     What if…you implemented this in your professional practice?

                 The Four C’s of Learning via Jeff Utecht


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102 comments to The “Why?” And “What If..?” of Tomorrow

  1. CMGreen says:

    All 4 C’s are learned, and if they are not exposed to them when they are young, then they will struggle with it through their adulthood. This is not just with the digital world, but with the human connection as well. I have many students who struggle with simple communication with their peers on a human level. As an educator it is my job to teach them positive communication and how to share their ideas in a safe environment. Same goes for technology; we need to help them communicate safely and effectively with the digital tools used in the classroom environment.

    • Diane Dolan says:

      I concur that many students are struggling with simple communication techniques. In the tightrope walk of teaching for the 21st century and remaining faithful to core “tried and true” communication skills, we teachers are often pulled in many directions. As you said, safety is always a concern as well. I’m sure you have many great ideas you are incorporating to make your students the best communicators they can possibly be, both in person and digitally.

    • CL Green says:

      While I think that all 4C’s are important and communication is a challenge to students, I think that it begins with Critical Thinking. Without a good thought process, there would be NO need for communication. Technology is a tool to help with not only our communication, but also to help spark our Critical thinking.

  2. Maggie says:

    I think that these four C’s are important as well as keeping that control of the classroom as the teacher. Implementing technology into the junior high setting is a risk. As educators within a school, we need to be consistent in expectations for students with technology so that the structure is there for them to take control of their own learning. Students will learn best by doing; teaching technology is no different.

  3. Diane Dolan says:

    In my 7th grade English class, a unit on business writing practices addresses some of the same ideas mentioned in this article. Groups discuss some of the more modern business writing techniques, especially the way corporations use social media. Students also email companies with problems or suggestions. With this unit, as well as others, we are tackling the c of Communication, but as an educator, I would like to try more critical thinking projects that go beyond communicating ideas.

  4. DG says:

    As a junior high teacher, I am a facilitator who guides the students in their learning. I am still in control of the curriculum; the students are in control of their work in collaborative projects. I need to investigate strategies for Dcompleting work with a purpose and an audience to share thoughts and ideas.

    • Kris says:

      I agree that as teachers we are in control of the curriculum but what is interesting is that we need to think about ways to incorporate these 21st century skills into the curriculum we select, we have to strive for deeper learning for our students.

  5. sargueta12 says:

    Collaboration and communication are occurring throughout our campus. Teachers are collaborating through Skypes and Google Hangouts with professionals such as marine biologist, engineers in Penn State, and teachers in Canada. This is giving our students exposure to experiences they often aren’t exposed to. Students are also communicating with parents through digital portfolios like Seesaw. Our students are posting their products daily, providing great conversation at home about the learning that occurred during the school day.

  6. Yolanda Morales says:

    What if we asked out students to evaluate the challenges within a school / a community and collaboratively work together to find a solution that positively impacts/reduces/eliminate the challenge (problem)?

  7. Susan Rideau says:

    I utilize collaboration heavily in my classroom. Many of my students are not the best independent thinkers. By collaborating, they are able to share ideas or use other’s thoughts to develop their own. We have been working on being better communicators as well. In order to collaborate, we must be able to explain, justify or challenge each other. We must give our opinions and feedback and also remain polite and positive when communicating. Children are not always very good at choosing the right words or in other words “sugar-coating” when giving constructive criticism. By collaborating, I am hoping to expose the students to other ways of thinking that are not their own and discussing the processes to in turn broaden their scope or view. I would like to practice more activities to make the students think more critically. If I gave them problems with errors and forced them to be problems finders instead of problem solvers they may gain a new perspective on how to go about the process of solving, especially when so many of them don’t know the initial place to begin any way.

  8. SciKid says:

    I currently try to communicate learning through technology and hands-on. As science lab teacher with limited computer usage it is imperative that I find other ways for my students to stay engaged. I would love to use technology more often because the new wave of teaching is not to only reach the students in the classroom, but outside of the school setting. Students never stop learning because they are not in a school setting, therefore the availability of assessing the information increases the ownership of their learning. With the tools students will not depend on the teacher because they are able to reach out other classmates and various other sources that are at the fingertips.

    Being able to communicate in various ways improves classroom learning. If a student is out of school for a long period of time, distant learning can be implemented via the internet allowing the student to communicate with his/her fellow students.

  9. Nick Carter says:

    I would like to start using more communication with other campuses and classes around the world. Many kids in my classes don’t normally get to experience many things outside of their home. Many have never been out of the city much less out of the state. Skyping and creating projects with other school could be a great start to this.

    • sewilkie says:

      Absolutely! One of the affordances I appreciate most about the tools we have available for learning is the opportunity they provide to bring the world to our learners.

      How have or how might you build on the activities you’ve already done? What purpose are the students finding in “reaching out and pulling in”?

  10. Yolanda Morales says:

    Communication has changed drastically from when I was in school. We are still teaching students how to “write”letters when in fact, now, actual pen to paper letter writing is almost non existent. There are several options now (Facebook, texts, grams, posts, tweets, etc.) all of which are permanent. Having our students understand this and practice more purposeful thinking before submitting their communication is critical.
    Collaborating across space and time intrigues me. Having students collaborate with other students with different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, etc. is very beneficial and will give them an insight of what is happening globally and will allow students to interact with others outside of their comfort space.

  11. R. Ramos says:

    I currently allow students the opportunity of creativity. I have noticed that when they know parents, principals, and other classes will see this they tend to give a lot more effort. I’d like to try making it where the audience is more global. Many of my students would enjoy.

    I’d like to try making students to be more critical thinkers. For the sake of time it seems we just give them the answers to move on. I feel having them figure it out and come up with the problem they see first, will be more beneficial in the long run. It may take longer,but it will be well worth it if they learn this skill early on.

  12. Nick Carter says:

    I believe creativity is a very powerful tool that gives students a voice. It gives a voice to some who are normally not as vocal as others. When creating objects to be shared they have more of a sense of ownership in the pieces they create. They often are able to express themselves in ways that are normally overlooked.

    • Yolanda Morales says:

      I agree with you. It is a great way to have students express themselves who otherwise are too shy to express themselves vocally.

  13. Robin says:

    Teaching Special Education, the students take the educational risks in our small environment, but when in the real world environment their confidence levels get them. My goal will be to get them to truly collaborate beyond our walls where they can connect with others (peers and adults) to grow themselves with feedback and enhancements/ changes. Learning how to actually function in the technology world with true, effective communication will trump any learning disability they have been “labeled” with. My struggle will be to integrate true, authentic collaboration regularly while allowing them to keep the confidence of risk taking!

  14. L. Cantu says:

    I was thinking about communication and how it is true that students are not taught how to effectively communicate in school. Sure, they might have a Facebook or a twitter account, but they probably don’t realize the power in communication through these tools. I love the way these 4 C’s of Learning put the evolving world of technology into perspective.

    • A. Chavez says:

      I agree! I think just because students have a social media account, doesnt mean that they know how to communicate properly. I think we allow good opportunities to teach them proper communication skills in the digital activities that we do.

    • sewilkie says:

      Yes! Communicating through digital tools – such hugely important skills. It’s interesting to consider how well our students might be expected to communicate with those they will never meet face-to-face. What norms might you establish with your students for communicating in the absence of body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, etc?

    • Robin says:

      Can you imagine how our lesson plans would look if there was a section for the hashtag right by the section for the TEK?? Or asking student to respond to a prompt with an instagram or tweet vs a traditional writing sample?? I love the thought of these tools in our rooms!

  15. Sonya Esquivel says:

    I currently use creativity in my classroom. I think it is important for students to be able to create something new and original. I believe it keeps them curious and can help build critical thinking skills.
    I would like to use communication more effectively. Jeff was right in saying that our means of communication are changing. I would like students to become more fluent in the newest forms of communication. This could lead to student being able to leave better and more insightful peer reviews on classmates work in their digital portfolios. Students could reach out to experts on things they are curious about and students will be better prepared to communicate in the future.

    • Yolanda Morales says:

      Creativity is sometimes challenging for our students but allowing them time to think through a project/problem will allow their creativity to come out and allow them to express themselves in ways that they normally would not. Good job!

  16. @FancyFirsties says:

    Why?… I currently use collaboration daily with my first graders. They are seated in groups and are asked to collaboratively complete lots of different task across multiple subject areas. They have also collaborated with other first grade classrooms during Skype’s and science investigation. They even went as far as collaborating with other first grade classes from different schools in the district during a Google Hangout regarding soil.

    What if?… My first graders love to create an endless amount of products. I would love for them to take those products global. It would be amazing if they started creating things that they could share and receive feedback from with students from all over the world.

  17. Heather says:

    Why: I currently involve my students in critical thinking because those are valuable skills that they will need in the future. After I teach a skill on the iPad, I very rarely teach it again because I want them to figure it out. I like to teach only basic functions as well. That way students will have to struggle a little. It also gives them time to explore and work together to accomplish the task they want to do.

    I would like to try communication. I feel like sometimes the rules about what kids can and cannot do or say make me nervous to try new things. Communication is important and I want them to see that they can get feedback from outside the walls of our school.

  18. R Everhart says:

    In my classroom today, we communicate using blogs. Comments we make today are recorded, shared, discussed, and evolve over time. Our projects are done in apps that reflect the best media to publish our work, a grand step from the days of tri-fold backboards, and dioramas.

  19. @mathdebj says:

    As a Digital Learning Coach, I see many instances of the “enhanced” 4 C’s in my cohort teachers’ classrooms. I thought it was very applicable that he mentioned a 5th C: Control. This was, perhaps, one of the hardest things some of my cohort teachers had to realize. It is okay for the students to know more about the new technology/app rolled out than the adults in the room. We just needed to get the students started and then they ended up showing us new features. It was very interesting to observe how teachers developed new classroom rules and routines dealing with new technologies, such as Plickers.

    • Monique says:

      Loss of control for teachers can be a scary tunnel to walk through. As educators, we have come accustomed to driving the bus, but there is so much power in teaching students to drive their own thinking and learning. We must become facilitators of learning, the GPS system that sets students up for success while allowing them to use multiple avenues to get there.

  20. A. Chavez says:

    For our campus, we value collaboration! We are in a 1st – 5th grade classrooms. For our 2nd graders, they usually produce a product and upload it into a digital portfolio (SeeSaw / google docs.) Once the project is uploaded, students are able to leave peer feedback on that student’s work in which they are then able to take that feedback to improve their original work. Students have learned not to take it as criticism but more as of suggestions.

    I’d like to try to become more comfortable in collaborating across campuses using a digital platform. We have tried it a few times, but I would like to have the constancy be there in which it becomes second nature to the students. I think it is crucial that we instill collaboration in our students at a young age- this is a skill that they will need all of their life.

    • Monique says:

      Allowing students to collaborate peer-to-peer peer-to-expert puts handles on learning for students. If students are allowed to work with others in creating on product or as a tool of learning, they will be able to use their communication and critical thinking skills. I do believe that students should have the opportunity to work together to strengthen these skills.

    • @FancyFirsties says:

      I agree, I would love for my students to have pen pals with other first graders across the district. It should be second nature to them. They could collaborate with each other and use each other for resources.

  21. vt1015 says:

    I’m a big believer in teaching and allowing the kids to be creative. Kids are so used to getting directions and being told what steps to follow. When you put the creativity on them, it allows them to be their OWN thinkers and to take charge of their learning. I think this is so important.
    I’d like to try to incorporate MORE critical thinking. This is such an important element in every childs learning.

    • sewilkie says:

      Allowing students to grapple with the process is a bit like having them attend to higher order questions — it offers opportunities for them to engage with material/content/ideas/strategies, etc. on a level and in ways that strengthens their THINKING. Such a great area to push on with learners!

  22. Towela Okwudire says:

    What Jeff says is so true: “The four C’s are not new…they are different. We need to come to a new understanding of what these mean in 2016 and beyond.”
    -For me, I have to think about what the Four C’s mean for me as a French language teacher…
    -With our limited class sessions, I have reduced their homework to encourage to come everyday refreshed and ready to engage in their other language everyday. I do not want to force them to feel trapped in a small space with their French homework. Going home, I ask them to look engage with the French world online–for fun–finding sites, or even to play their favourite games online from a french nation’s pages.
    -I challenge them to reset their emails and computer settings to French…little things like this.

    What if: We are about to start their first novel (some of them second) in French. The stories are written from the perspective of Quebecois teenagers. I have the book only in print–which is fine–I like Jeff’s idea to have them write a book revieew. However this will not be on Amazon, but from Renaud-Bray books which is based in Montreal, mostly accessed by Francophones. I want to encourage my students by helping them realise that purchasers or potential buyers will see the enthusiasm of American Core French students reading a Quebecois novel! I’m DEFINITELY going to try this!

  23. SabP says:

    Collaboration and communication can be a big challenge. The lack of time is my first challenge. So many opportunities in short time. How do you find the time to explore everything without being cute in time.
    And it is same with communication. I am trying to organize a Skype session with a French school (for a French teacher in the US, should be nice). BUT French teachers are not allowed to use Skype and then we have timing issues. It is still “doable” but so many issues as soon as you try to move forward, that after 6 months in trying, nothing as happened yet.

    • sewilkie says:

      Have you shared your challenges with your Students? Such a great opportunity to model grit, perseverance, problem-solving and collaboration WITH your students!

  24. dianne says:

    Good ideas here–all worth considering. I agree, that they are not necessarily new, but display differently in today’s world. Extending to reach a global audience is a worthwhile endeavor. Our Twitter feed has been one small step that has been a quick way to share. We have done collaborative work within our lower school and upper school. Art/science integrated classes are ongoing. An exchange with upper school physics students using toys was valuable. Extending these in a global way could provide new and engaging opportunities. I also like the focus on finding problems–great applications with science. Working on more global problems and having conversations would be worthwhile.

  25. Brian says:

    One practice from the 4 C’s I utilize in the classroom is critical thinking: problem finders. Throughout the year I give my students situations/problems where I give very little information and they are to find the error or problem. As a class we then discuss about how each group/person determined the problem and how they solved it (think aloud). One recent example of this was when I gave my high school epidemiology class a case study on a hantavirus outbreak. They had to determine if the number of cases should be considered an outbreak, find the source of the outbreak, explain how they determined the source, what bio-stats did they use to support their claim and finally how did the process they went through relate to the scientific method.

    The tools I would like to use more would be communication and collaboration. I would like my students to communicate their findings/work with experts in their fields. They could then take this knowledge, apply it to their work and make the necessary adjustments. This way they are reflecting on their work but they are also communicating and collaborating with someone with great knowledge of the subject area.

    • sewilkie says:

      Thinking about your students as problem finders and connecting this to your discussion with them yesterday about volcanos. I appreciate the opportunities our content, science especially, lends students to identify problems: “So what problems do you see with volcanic eruption?” and then pushing Ss to think beyond the obvious, immediate (and local).

  26. Laura says:

    After reading the article, I fee that most of my practices are still “old school” with some technology built in. In my classroom we have a class blog that is updated weekly with news for parents. On that blog are also individual student blogs that are meant as a portfolio for parents to view where they can include their work.

    I’m interested in more communication and/or collaboration between classrooms and grades. That is something that our school has wanted to do, especially with two campuses, but requires a lot of time and effort to coordinate. I know that the students would be very interested in learning from others and working together with them. Being able to collaborate or communicate with those outside of our school also sounds interesting, but intimidating as well. I know the students would find it very exciting, but my concern of safety keeps me from branching out that far.

    • Michelle Lane says:

      I hear you. . . the grinding machinery of “the ways things have always been done”. So difficult to move beyond! Also the persistent tug of time and effort along with the reality of not knowing what the tools are and how to use them properly. The interplay of lack of skills and the lack of time the biggest challenge, really. How do we overcome that?

  27. Michelle Lane says:

    I love the expansive nature of your interpretation of the “4 Cs”. Essentially this is about getting outside of the bubble of our four walls, our habitual ways of thinking, our ideas of outside expectations that are outdated–especially if, like me you are a “seasoned” aka “old” teacher. I don’t intend to be set in my ways, but when I read thoughtful reflections like this, I can feel a palpable shift in my thinking that whispers to me: “you have been towing a line that is tied to a dinosaur. . .”. Thank you for the clear-headed no nonsense communication!

  28. Janet says:

    As an art teacher, I connected with Utecht’s words on Communication. I think it was only 3 or 4 years ago that I realized how underutilized my classroom projector was, in helping students work like many artists today do —-with the aid of a projector, when handy, either to quickly sketch or enlarge their images in a more time-efficient manner.
    I had never thought to use the projector this way until I was at an Art Teacher Summer Workshop and viewed another teacher doing this to get started on his painting (and saving himself a few hours work, free-hand sketching).
    Since then, I’ve always offered this technology as a tool to be used in my classes. My students have so little time in the art room, and some of them have ideas that are better expressed through powerful imagery that they cannot necessarily draw on their own. The projection is the starting point, for making imagery. Sometimes the goal for art projects is to communicate powerfully, not necessarily work on drawing technique. Thinking differently about technology allowed me to help students with their work and adopt methods 21st Century artists use.
    I am inspired by the idea of encouraging students as Problem-Finders….I will definitely try this approach in my classes soon.

    • Susanna Muzzin says:

      I love this idea of thinking of new ways to use technology. In my history class, I will sometimes use the projector to cast an image of an outline map that students can trace–they can then work on the giant map together. Similar to your use. I think the key is always being open to new ways to use and see things we’ve become accustomed to……

  29. Susanna Muzzin says:

    I like this framework for thinking about how and why we teach. Familiar to me: working on collaborative skills in class (very hard for some of my students and so very important for them to practice); teaching communication by teaching writing and listening skills. It is still important to teach students how to write, how to organize their thoughts, and how to explain their thoughts to others. This won’t go away. But I agree that we also need to think about teaching students how to think and present their ideas visually and graphically, using new media. Perhaps more important than teaching students how to use Instagram or something like that is finding ways to encourage habits of mind that are always open to learning new platforms or technology. How do we do that? I’m inspired by the idea of sharing learning across time and space—this is a theme in historical thinking, of course. I’m excited by the idea of my students sharing their research on China with a classroom in China, for example. How would we overcome barriers of language and culture? I love the ideas of problem finders. One of my students wrote in his self-evaluation that during second semester, he wanted to start thinking about different strategies for the battles we were learning—in other words, what could Hannibal or Themistocles have done differently? This is the sort of problem-finding I want to keep encouraging.

    • Michelle Lane says:

      Yes! Helping students to develop those habits of mind is critical. . . and actively developing them in ourselves, too.

  30. JZiemann says:

    Why: This year my focus was on collaboration/creativity and what that would look like in a classroom of 3-5 year olds. During a Holidays Around the World project with our neighboring classroom, students Skyped with other classrooms around the globe as we learned how each celebrated the holidays. Not only did we collaborate with students next door but around the world and allowed them to ask questions to those students. This made the project more personable and meaningful to them.

    Moving forward we plan on connecting with another classroom during our Dino inquiry that is also studying a similar topic to collaborate with. The question is, where to find such a class? We would like to create a sharing portfolio on SeeSaw with this other class to document their collaboration.

    I am inspired by the critical thinking idea and finding problem finders. I feel that we have many students who are problem solvers but how to create problem solvers to in 3-5 year olds. Perhaps having them create or think of more challenging wonder statements on topics?

  31. Alex says:

    Much much much less homework and much more in-class group sharing, group thinking and group work. – Why bother? Not a bother at all. It is fun and exciting. The search for the right method of teaching, the exciting input of students, the marvelous detours, interesting surprises and failures make every day more interesting.

    What if I could offer my second language students more natural and exciting ways in which they could implement their skills? How can I enhance their communication skills to include interactions that are meaningful to them and can motivate them beyond the texts and exercises?

    A growing concern is the cost of this somewhat adventurous way of learning. Can I use more efficient ways to enhance the same skills? What could be integrated into the lesson to make the learning deeper? How can I empirically test the value of one method over the other? Is my gut-feeling and intuition enough to judge the merit of the lesson or the unit? How do I measure success? Is this success preferable to my successful results in previous years?…

  32. Beth OConnor says:

    Communication and collaboration are both critical. Seeing the shared information that the students receive helps me begin work with them without having to play catch-up.Being able to share the information with students and peers makes the creative process more open and organic.

  33. Aimee says:

    Having the 4th graders take their learning into (a) teaching others and then (b) teaching college age students forced their learning to a higher accountability. They could no longer “settle” and keep their level of knowledge at 4th grade, but needed to elevate it to engage the older students.

    Having just completed a “what if” in connection to a holiday family program, I saw that I would be underestimating my students’abilities if I had stuck with the “status quo”. I decided to give them more ownership and they were much more engaged during the program this year than in previous years.

  34. Dacy says:

    In my classes I have been utilizing strategies to engage my students in a way that encourages them to develop the driving questions of a unit. The process to do this has been successful with some classes and less so in others. When it has been successful it is inspiring to watch the students “take over” the classroom and share ideas, offer suggestions, and continually add to the Driving Question board. My next step is to figure out how to use a blog or other communication tool as a means for student collaboration and reflection. I also love the idea of student work serving a higher purpose and reaching out beyond the wall of the classroom.

  35. Sandy Wright says:

    Why: This year I’m really trying to collaborate or integrate with a few of my colleagues. Dacy and I are working on a brain science unit in both ELA and science. Obviously, she’s handling the heavy lifting (the science), while I’ve done some of the reading and writing in my class. I’ve also done this to some degree with Jewish Studies (on our Anne Frank unit) and soon with Noah in Social Studies on Greek Mythology. Why bother? It makes the content so much richer when the students are talking about the same topic in two or more classes. They’re not just learning it for a test or essay in my class; they’re applying it in another class.

    What if: I’m inspired by his discussion of communication in 2016. I like the idea of teaching about writing emails to different audiences and posting book reviews to Amazon or other sites. What if I added the email aspect to my unit on letters? I’m planning a new multi-genre writing project for the sixth graders. What if I add some type of digital component?

    • sewilkie says:

      Sandy, I just shared a rich conversation with a group of teachers about the nuances of digital communication and our need to design experiences that help students develop strategies for “talking” in the absence of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc. What implications might these digital conversations hold for your students?

  36. Nicole says:

    Communication is something that in senior kindergarten, we really pride ourselves on. We communicate with parents on a daily basis at drop off and pick up. We also have a Facebook page that all of the parents (and even some grandparents) are part of. We post classroom happenings, reminders, and are able to share pictures and videos with families. Another form of communication that we do monthly, is make compliment calls. We make it a point to call each child to give them a compliment on their day. It doesn’t take very long at all, but it goes such a long way in both the children and their parents’ eyes. I feel that we put such an emphasis on open lines of communication with our parents.
    I would like to implement more critical thinking into the classroom. Our math program actually utilizes Jeff Utechts idea of “problem finders” where the children look for the mistake and then have to solve the problem. They love this! A goal I have for myself is to take this “problem finders” idea out of math and implement it into other areas of study. Challenge children find mistakes and solve them. As an exaple, even during choice time, they love woodworking. Creating a “problem” for them to figure out and then solve would enhance the critical thinking in my classroom.

    • noah kaufman says:

      Another type of problem solving you could include is related to spelling or simple words the students have learned. Presenting a word or two or even something already talked about (ex: if you already talked about dinosaurs, put photos on the board and allow the students to pick which one is not like the others).

      • Nicole says:

        We do problem solving relating to spelling as part of our morning meeting… write sentences with mistakes and the kids have to locate the mistakes and fix the mistakes. Good idea with the dinosaurs, we will be getting there later in the year, I will remember your idea.

      • JZiemann says:

        Love the dinosaur example, my class just started on a dino inquiry {preK} and I would like to incorporate more problem finding in our explorations.

  37. Rona says:

    Communicating through blogging has been a class- changing experience. Not only are my ideas, info, getting out to parents easily and efficiently but my student’s ideas, too. It is time consuming as they are not yet able to type for themselves but it has changed the way our whole class communicates. We have also invited in extended families, which really opens up what is happening in our class and our school to a whole new audience.
    In thinking about collaboration, I would like my students to be able to collaborate with an older class in the area of gardening/growing. I have asked myself why am I not doing this in JrK. Much like the change of thinking with technology in my class, by asking why I’m not doing something, I have discovered that I need to be doing it.

    • noah kaufman says:

      The content you blog, how much of it is chosen by the students? Is this tool you are using giving students a false sense of confidence in relation to the workings/safety of the internet?

      • Rona says:

        Well Noah, I have spoken with the parents about the safety of the blog set up. We have discussed why this blog is public. I have not talked to my student about this. They are young and I think it may put ideas in their heads that wouldn’t get there otherwise. I do, however, publish each comment and blog post individually so if anything inappropriate would be submitted I see it first.

    • Nicole says:

      What would you like the older students to teach your students? In what way would you like them to collaborate with the juniors?

      • Rona says:

        Good question, Nic. Really I’m looking for an appropriate way to collaborate. I haven’t thought through the how’s, just that I’m looking to work together and see what happens. The learning about gardening is almost secondary to me. I would like the experience and see what skills develop.

    • sewilkie says:

      Rona – love the idea of creating a “Relatives Network” to support students in developing their practice of “learning out loud” and with a wider audience! How would collaborating with an older audience be different for your students? How might it be different for the older students? To what benefit? At what cost? (aka: why bother?)

      • Rona says:

        Hey sewilkie. I think, as I wrote to Nicole, there is benefit in working across grade lines, even if it is to form relationships and learn from others. I think children teaching children brings about different learning than teacher-student.

  38. noah kaufman says:

    One practice from the 4 C’s I utilize in the classroom is that of collaboration. I try to incorporate the concept of working with others, regardless of their place in geography or time. Twice this year my 8th grade students have Skyped with students from another country (both African countries). This conversation centered around charitable needs and how we could work with those students on improving their society and ours. Additionally, my 7th grade students have meet numerous times with the 2nd graders to work on everything from making dog biscuits for sale to making blankets for donation.

    The tool I would like to use more of is that of communication. I spend a great deal of time teaching students the skills of letter writing and how to properly format letters rather than focusing on e-mailing or blogging. I have begun to use blogs, but am still on the early stage.

    • Sandy Wright says:

      Hi Noah: We did work on letter writing in 7th grade ELA; let’s make sure that we are emphasizing the same format and skills.

  39. Nancy Dowling says:

    I have ventured into the “blogging” world as a new means of communication with parents and, hopefully, between students as well. There have been some glitches with easyblog, but I feel as though it is finally making an impact with parents. Students have also been trying to send positive comments to each other.

    The second graders have invited the seventh graders to partner with us on monthly projects for Ronald McDonald House. This has been exciting, a great learning experience, and a wonderful way to collaborate with others in our school community.

  40. Mara says:

    Communication is so important in this digital age. As I reflect on teaching our students how to communicate, I am thinking about the transformations they are making with their blog posts. At the beginning of the year, we heard lots of “I learned this.”, I did this..”. After a few weeks of this, it gave way to discussions what does our audience want to hear; what will interest them? The students created sentence starters and ideas, including sharing an opinion and asking the audience to respond with theirs. another example is posing a question to the audience. This way, instead of students simply regurgitating what they have learned, they have to use critical thinking to create an opinion question on the subject. Now as we are going in to folk fair, I believe this practice, these ideas and sentence starters will give way to much more meaningful and purposeful conversations with their global virtual pen pals!

    • Dacy says:

      I love the idea of student created sentence starters! What a great way to get the students to communicate at a higher level.

      • Sandy Wright says:

        And I love the idea of “what does our audience want to hear?” That’s what we try to do with The Lion’s Roar.

  41. Jody Lansing says:

    I am currently working with the students in my class on different ways to approach our school Folk Fair. In the past it was teacher driven with a live presentation at the end. Currently I am approaching it differently. The students researched together. They picked many topics that they wanted to learn about and they are starting projects, the way they would like to do them, keeping in mind that their audience will be all ages. I feel that the kids are more connected and learning genuinely information about our topic. We are currently in the process of how we are going to present. This leads me to wonder how we can share this globally? I tried, but failed to find a school in Thailand to connect with…I need to try again. How else can we share all the great learning that is happening?

    I am also starting to think…What if we collaborate across grade levels on Folk Fair instead of staying within classrooms? How would this change/improve/ challenge our approach to future Folk Fairs?

    • Dtrudind says:

      The cross grade level idea is fantastic…..What about doing a cross grade level project next. Karin posted about this earlier. I think third and first would be great for a spring project….

    • Karin Damico says:

      Hi Jodi! I think you have a very interesting idea. Could you collaborate across grade levels? Why not? It would most likely require a complete change of schedule/routine for a month or so, but it could be a fantastic learning experience for the kids.

  42. Jillian says:

    Giving up control (teacher) and creating “problem finders” is by far the most inspiring and most critical piece of learning for any student. I believe that if a teacher can comfortably do both, students will always trust, be inspired and perform to their highest potential in the classroom.
    In my classroom, choice within a framework is what I find works best for my students (and for me!) I try to consistently “shift my thinking” to that of a learner rather than a “giver of knowledge.” I am looking to see how each student learns best, and how to give them the control of their own learning in the classroom. Asking more questions, putting them in the driver seat (truly, many times I sit on the carpet and call a student up to teach…try it, even the angle gives a whole new perspective) can impact a student more than you know!! What I need now is more time (doesn’t every teacher?!) Also, a trust within yourself to veer from a curriculum (within a framework) is vital. While I am already doing most of this, I can always be doing more…that is the goal! 🙂

    • Moishe Steigmann says:

      Jillian, I love the mantra of “shift my thinking”. And the idea of sitting on the ground and recognizing the impact of a literal change in perspective is brilliant! What a great way to see learning through their eyes! I do, from time to time, sit in a chair next to my students, but your idea of being an active learner alongside them is inspiring. Thank you!

    • Janet says:

      What are some of the other sentence starters you are using?

  43. Jodi Fox says:

    This post reminds me that it is ok to try, to think outside of the box and to go beyond for my students. What if we spend a lesson talking about social media, texting and sending emails. What would that look like? Instead of having them write the answers, how could they share their responses differently. It also made me think about what I need to learn to be more successful at communicating both in my daily life and globally.

    • Jillian says:

      I really want to have an on-line portfolio for each student that would carry from K-8th grade. I am worried about the time this may take. Could they video/photograph their own work? How could it be shared on a frequent basis?? After a test or a presentation, could they reflect by video recording thoughts on went well/changes for next time? Wouldn’t this be amazing? I wonder what programs are set up for this already…would it really be THAT time consuming?? A porftolio of years of learning…amazing, right??

      • Moishe Steigmann says:

        What a fantastic idea!!

      • Dtrudind says:

        We will be moving to portfolios for next year, but you have great thoughts and I think we should begin to play with your ideas this year. Maybe Sara and I can find some time, even 15 minutes tomorrow…..

    • Jody Lansing says:

      Hi Jodi, I think you pose some insightful ideas as to how to teach kids these new “life” skills as well as integrating the other activities that we cover in class. For example, having the kids send an email response to a book they are reading. Or email you or a friend, to recommend a book they are reading. Using these social media sites to enforce what we are doing in the classroom could be a great way to integrate.

  44. Karin Damico says:

    I have changed the way I communicate with parents this year. I have eliminated the old monthly newsletter that I don’t think parents really read anyway, and I have been using a blog. I have a blog where I post pictures of exciting projects, collaborative learning times, special guests in the classroom, new units we are starting to learn about, etc. Each of my students also has their own blog, where they can post about a project they did, something they’re excited to learn more about, something they feel proud of, etc. Their parents receive an e-mail when their child posts something on their blog so that they can view and respond to it. The kids absolutely love checking their blogs at school to see if they have any comments. It’s a great way for the kids and students to get excited about their learning and talk about it further at home.

    I would really like to do more collaboration within my school since it is a K-8 school. I started the year off with my first graders pairing up with the fifth grade class. We went on a field trip together and started a project together. Unfortunately, the collaborative aspect of the project fizzled out a bit. I think being in a K-8 school is the ideal setting for amazing collaboration between younger and older students and I’m inspired to do more of it.

    • Jodi Fox says:

      Hi Karin, I love the idea of your blog and that you are trying a new approach to communicating with your parents. I am too trying to work on parent communication. I am wondering how this new approach is going? I hear that the kids are enjoying reading the responses. Do they then communicate back with the person who wrote them? When does the dialogue end? Do you give time during class? Thank you so much for sharing your experiences as I too am wanting to get into blogging.

      As far as your collaboration question… I am going to continue to follow your blog to hear what others suggest!

  45. Moishe Steigmann says:

    Thank you for the engaging blog post and challenging questions!

    I currently engage in Critical Thinking: Creating Problem Finders. Many of my courses involve learning primary and secondary sources, and I believe that the skill of how to read them and what questions to ask is more valuable than the task of memorizing information.

    The practice that inspires me is Communication: Teaching to communicate the way the world communicates. As someone who has studied communication arts professionally and who has extensive public speaking experience, I am aware of my own deficiency in learning how to speak to a global audience using newer technology and means. If I have that lack, then I am certainly remiss in bringing these opportunities to my students, and I am sure that they would love to share their learning and creativity with others.

    If I implemented this practice, I am confident that it would help actualize the idea of student-owned learning in my classroom. The students would then have a real audience with whom to share and from whom to get feedback, and that reality would drive them, I believe, more than having accountability for their work only within the walls of their school building.

    Thank you again for the great questions!

    • Karin Damico says:

      Hi Moishe,

      You state that you feel as though you have more to learn about how to communicate using newer technology, and therefore you feel as though you are doing a disservice to your students because you can’t teach these practices to them. What about the idea of having your students teach you about ways that they communicate with technology? If your students are older, there is a high possibility that they do a lot with technology and could have a lot to teach you. Good luck!

      • Moishe Steigmann says:

        Great idea, Karin! Worst case, if they are not familiar, I am sure that they would love to play around with it and try to figure it out themselves. Thank you for the suggestion and for reading and commenting to my post!

      • Dtrudind says:

        I so agree with Karin…Your students are your best teachers….That allows you to be vulnerable..

      • Sandy Wright says:

        I totally agree. One thing that was emphasized at a conference I went to was that we teachers can’t or shouldn’t compete with what students know about technology. Let them be the experts in iMovie or whatever.

    • Dtrudind says:

      I think blogging is such a powerful communication tool. My question to you is how do you upgrade the content and at the same time make sure that kids expand the language they use in their posts. How can we expand the audience beyond this community…

      The question of doing meaningful work with another grade level should be a focus in this school. The “follow through” actually happens at the planning stage….That may sound very silly, but it’s about commitment and accountability, not about a “one and done” experience.

      • Jodi Fox says:

        Expanding your audience sounds great, but at what point do the students need to feel knowledgeable and confident in their postings first.

      • Moishe Steigmann says:

        Thank you, Dale, for your thoughts! The good news is that my class is creating projects and activities for other grades, so we’re on the right track there. The larger question that you’re hitting on is how to translate and experience within the walls of the school to a broader audience. That’s a great way to frame the question, Dale, and I think that will help me focus my options.

        Do you, by chance, have any suggestions that would tailor to a middle school audience?

    • sewilkie says:

      So many strong points here! YES!!! We start engaging our kids in reading printed text long before they can walk or talk. When do we begin engaging our kids in reading the web? I often work with teachers and students around the development of learner’s capacity to read and write on the web… please let me know if you need some resources to consider.

      Your comments about global audiences, students owning the learning and learning to communicate digitally resonate, as well, and bring to mind this article…

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