Friday, April 17, 2009

Managing a 21st Century Classroom

The following is a post I made to my Authentic Learning Blog about a year ago. At the end of the post, I will explain how a classroom like this is managed.

What does a 21st Century Classroom look like? About ten minutes before lunch today, I looked around my classroom. I grabbed a pen and paper and walked around the room recording what students were doing.
  1. Three students sitting at a laptop using Audacity to edit a podcast they made for literature circles.
  2. Two students adding titles and descriptions to Morpheus Fortuna's Flickr page.
  3. A student typing his blog entry on "What is Project S.C.A.T.?" (Stop Contamination at Trinity)
  4. Three students quietly reading newspaper articles to research for Project S.C.A.T.
  5. Two students using laptops to research the history of the Trinity site (taking notes in Microsoft Word.)
  6. Two students looking up Trinity stock prices on Yahoo Finance and recording in a table on a wiki page.
  7. Three students down the hall using an iPod and Tune Talk to record an interview with a teacher whose father died from asbestos exposure.
  8. Two students sorting through printed material and dispersing to students according to topic.
  9. Two students researching the chemicals Trinity dumped on our school's neighboring lot.
  10. Four students using laptops to research and record websites and small blurbs on a wikipage
  11. Two students saving pictures to network folder
I rang the classroom bell to let students know it was time for lunch and I heard a collective groan as students slowly pulled themselves away from their work.

Do you think that's what a 21st Century classroom is supposed to look like?

A year later, my classroom looks much the same, but the tools have expanded exponentially. For example, instead of just creating podcasts, students are using a flip video to create movies. Blabberize, Voki, Voice Thread, GoAnimate, ToonDoo and Glogster are just some of the web 2.0 tools students use to demonstrate knowledge of the content areas.

How is this possible in a fifth grade classroom? What are the management techniques employed? First of all, this doesn't just happen. Students don't arrive on the first day of school knowing how to use the tools and knowing how to work independently and collaboratively. This all takes time and patience. Starting out small in the beginning of the year, teaching mini lessons, and raising expectations as the year progresses are critical.

Behavior management is key. I am lucky in that the school I teach in has quite a few programs in place that produce respectful citizens. A program called Responsive Classroom is employed district wide. By the time students reach fifth grade, they have had five years of morning meetings and are well-versed in what it means to be a community learner.

In addition, our district adopted the Olweus Bullying Prevention program. This is a comprehensive program designed to reduce and prevent bullying problems among school children. DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is another program taught at the fifth grade level that not only teaches students about avoiding the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but also uses play acting to equip students to resist peer pressure.

With the combination of all of these programs coupled with the interest students have in what they are doing, I can honestly say behavior issues are minimal in this 21st Century classroom.

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