Creating a 21st Century Learning Environment / by Tyler Wood

This section has been about how to start to implement the 21st century fluencies into the classroom. There is no need to wait for it to be policy, many of these ideas are ready to implement today. I am also working on implementing these fluencies into my classroom. Below is a link to my lesson plan for my implementation. 

Tyler's Lesson Plan

My lesson plan involves a few different resources, so I am embedding these resources for you to look at, use, or get ideas from below.

Keep in mind that the presentation I have made was for the entire chapter. I only used a little piece of it for the lesson being discussed and shared here. Below is the PDF link to the worksheet the kids used in the lesson. 

Design an Animal Worksheet


So how did it go? I will start with my use of the TPACK framework lesson plan. I think the lesson plan was good because it forces the thought process in planning. It helps build the framework by making sure each section was filled in and thought about. Everything educators plan should have a reason and using this lesson plan puts that at the forefront of the planning stage. 

Armed with a good lesson idea and plan I was confident it would go well in the classroom, but you never know how it will go for sure until you do it. The lesson went fairly smoothly at first. The kids liked the Prezi presentation and were mostly paying attention. Several students seemed to actually look forward to the presentations because they like the visual learning I have been implementing previously and they know there will be pictures and video coming soon. It is good to see the technology piquing their interest in learning in the classroom.

I managed to get through two of the four vocabulary words when a flood of questions began to spring from the mouths of the curious class. It was a bit of a pickle for me because I had a plan on time and needed to give them a decent amount of time to write out their ideas on the worksheet, but I didn't want to stifle the curiosity of the kids or pass up a teachable moment when the kids were actually really interested in a certain subject. The class began a small discussion of animals and survival. This was great because I know that "students generally appreciate having casual conversations with their teachers (Goodwin & Hubbell, 2013)." We talked about camouflage and why it helped prey animals survive, but also how camouflage helped predators. We talked about variation in human genes as well as other animals and what it looks like. The brown-eyed Korean children always enjoy pointing out my blue eyes, but they were also delighted to know that my hair was much lighter, almost white, when I was a child. The kids were shocked to learn about the terrible fate of the Western Black Rhino and I didn't want to gloss over the very important lesson of protecting wildlife. Extinction is a very real possibility in our lives, it wasn't just the dinosaurs a long time ago. After many other questions we managed to finish our vocabulary introduction and watched a short video on one particularly interesting adaptation in the sea - the cuttlefish. One of the greatest living adaptors on Earth (see prezi for video). 

After watching a few minutes of the video, I explained the worksheet and got the kids started on creating their own animal with an adaptation that would help it survive. 

What I thought went well was engagement. The kids seemed to be engaged and interested in the content and the technology used to relay that content, evidenced by their eagerness to ask questions and engage in a discussion about the topic. They were conversing knowledgeably and thoughtfully on-topic. I think the visuals were making the vocabulary easier to understand and conceptualize. For example, we were able to see an animal's camouflage and discuss how the animal uses it, rather than spend the time trying to explain what camouflage means. They moved quickly from acquiring the vocabulary to applying it in discussion very swiftly moving up Bloom's digital taxonomy from understanding to applying and analyzing (Crocket, Jukes, & Churches, 2011, p. 91). 

What I thought did not go well was the timing of the lesson. I would have liked to have more time to implement this lesson more in-depth. It felt a little rushed, partly because I wasn't expecting so many actively engaged students asking so many questions. This is the kind of time problem I like to have though. However, those questions made it difficult for the students to have enough time to really get into the animal worksheet and apply their new content knowledge. I may even have to revisit this assignment to get the ideas fully formed on paper. They were trying their best to get the ideas out and we ran out of time. My planning was a little too time rigid or perhaps I was bitting off more than we could chew. Either way, next time I would allow for more time to teach this lesson.

I would definitely teach this lesson again, however. It was engaging and the students liked it while at the same time being pushed to think outside of the box and be more creative than they are usually expected to. As I mentioned before, I would allow for more time, though, for the writing. This would be better implemented on a day I have a double block class of science and I can use the break between classes for the kids to let the ideas sink in. They can come back after break and be ready for designing and have plenty of time to flush out their ideas. We would even have time to share our ideas and let the kids hear what their classmates came up with. 

The technology used in this lesson was nice and easy to use. I have been implementing Prezi into my lesson a lot more lately and it has, as I alluded to previously, a response in expectations from the students. They have begun to get accustomed to it and enjoy the use of it in class. I also like Prezi because I can keep all the visual material in one location. All the photos and videos I want to use for a lesson is in one place so I don't have to be searching the web or opening more than one window. It makes the visuals cleaner, the lesson go smoother, and helps eliminate any slow internet connection breaks in the middle of class when opening a new window can kill the flow of the class. 


Student Analysis

The students, for the most part, responded well to the lesson. They were actively engaged and offering up their ideas and insights almost from the beginning of class. As I mentioned before, we made it through two vocabulary words then the questions came tumbling out. The questions were not the type of questions kids can offer up in order to stall, but were actually very interesting questions. For example, one student asked what might happen if an animal was born without their camouflage and the student sighted an example of a shrimp not being the correct color for blending into their surroundings. I think the students enjoyed the content of the lesson overall.

This is an improvement in the engagement with the content that I have witnessed thus far. I have a few students who seem engaged most classes, there are a few that seem to never be engaged, and many in the middle who are engaged sometimes and not engaged other times - a bell curve of engagement.  This lesson brought out the middle group more and even the group that usually doesn't seem engaged was more interested. I believe the rest of this chapter, using this technology, will really be the test to see how engaged they are, but as of now, their interest has been piqued. 

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The students didn't have enough time to really finish the worksheet in the way I know they could have, but they were trying their best and I thought they did a great job. When most of my students were actively writing for the final 12 minutes of class and all the questions were about the lesson content, then I feel the students were achieving what I wanted them to achieve. The goal is to unlock their critical thinking skills for this assignment, and even though we were short on time and many students didn't finish what they wanted to finish, I was happy to see them thinking critically about how their animal would survive with the adaptation they gave them or what adaptation would fit into their environment. The worksheet may not have been fully finished in the end, but the assignment's goal was being accomplished.  Posted here is an example of what one student came up with.

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I planned on going through the vocabulary quickly at first and spending more time watching videos and showing them how this content relates to the outside world, and us. I was surprised that the students were perfectly satisfied having a discussion in class rather than watching more videos. More often than not, the students want to watch a video and stop talking to me or asking questions, but this time it wasn't really the case. They wanted to watch a video, but they were also interested in asking questions and getting to know the ideas better. I was also surprised at the engagement because this was being taught the day after their placement quizzes. On a day where we usually go light on the content for the students, they were more engaged than ever. 

This student response has proven to me that this idea of designing a visual presentation that follows along with the textbook is a really great way to allow the students reading time from the book, but supplement it with a visual stimuli that makes those neural connections stronger. The students are able to use different learning styles in each class this way maximizing the engagement with all the students. 


Future Application

Moving forward I would like to implement technology into each lesson in some way. Even if it is a small thing for that lesson,  just to make sure the students are getting multiple methods for gaining the content knowledge. This offers the students alternatives for learning the content and keeps them engaged with the material more than just reading or having a discussion alone. 

I already have access to the internet in class and the kids have access to internet at home, but I would like to have a touch-screen in the class to get the kids some hands on interaction with the technology. I can move forward without it, however. I would really like to have student interaction outside of the class more as well, so student access to mobile technology would be nice. Most have access through their parents phones, but it would be nice to see them with phones or tablets where they could access school work or content for class outside of class easier. 

The obstacles I face are two-fold. The first obstacle I face is the technology itself. I have most of the technology I want, but sometimes they aren't working properly or they are too slow because we have older computers. My computer I work on in the office is constantly shutting down making it very hard to design technology for class at times. Also, with a big screen that isn't a touch screen, I am limited on what I am able to use for the students. I would like the technology to be more hands on and let the students use it more, but I can't with only one computer in class and no touch screen. The second obstacle is the parents and what they will allow or accept. It is understandable that parents don't want their children to own or constantly use a cell phone, so trying to push for more student internet access outside of school is an uphill battle. They are worried about the children playing games and not studying, and rightly so. Students can, and do, get distracted from schoolwork when they have access to games. However, if there are no games allowed on the device and they had easier access to study materials on that device, they would be more focused and more engaged in class, even when not in class. It will be a tricky sell for parents, but I would like to see them have more access because I would like to teach a flipped class-room in the future. That will only happen if the parents are accepting of their children having nearly unlimited access to the internet outside of school for schoolwork. 

To overcome these obstacles I have already begun to show how the technology I, and my coworkers, are implementing is working. The parents have seen a few new ideas pop up this year and they have taken to it quite quickly. As we implement more and more ideas of this nature, and they see it working for their students, I think they will be more inclined to accept a change in the school dynamic. As the parents accept, and even request, these technologies, the administration will adopt them and support them more. They currently support the use of technology, as long as they don't have to buy anything new for now. That will no doubt change if the parents are requesting more innovation in the school. Also, I have piqued the schools interest in getting rid of the expensive textbooks and going paperless. The best thing I can do to overcome these obstacles now is continue to add more innovation into the classroom and demonstrate it's worth and effectiveness and let that speak for itself. I plan to push for more use of mobile devices as well. 

As I continue to implement more my colleagues have been doing the same. We have been sharing ideas and adding new things all year long. This has been a great sight to see. After I implemented ClassDojo into my class, I saw three other teachers start using it in class. This school is ready and willing to change and try new things, so as we do that we are sharing with each other. I have given all of my information to the other teachers to use and try and many have been experimenting with it already. So far, sharing with my colleagues has been easy and met with open minds. I have been lucky in that regard. 

As the school begins to get the ball rolling on change it will only get easier and easier to continue the implementation of technology and innovation into the classroom. As the results start to come in on the students scores and abilities, the acceptance will grow and we will be able to add more innovation. 



Brookhart, S., (2008) How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from


Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2013, March 29). Common Core Standards. Retrieved from


Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is Not Enough. (first ed). 21st Century Fluency Project Inc.: 21st Century Fluency Project. 


Goodwin, B., & Hubbell, E. R. (2013). The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A Checklist for Staying Focused Everyday. Retrieved from


Marzano, S.,(2013). Marzano's Nine Instructional Strategies for Effective Teaching and Learning. Newark Teachers Union. Retrieved from

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