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Learning in the Modern Classroom

I can die happy now :) I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!

The learning just oozes through the cracks of the physical classroom walls.

Learning is amplified by the amount of people who are collaborating, participating, communicating and creating. The learning is NOT about the technology tools, but what students can DO with them to learn in new ways. The learning is about an authentic tasks, that allows students to contribute in a individualized and personalized manner to make them realize that their work matters in the real world.

It all started out with a conversation between Mike Fisher and me. He had written over 40 children poems and was in the process of wondering what to do with them? I was looking for an authentic task for 9-11 year old students. We felt we had a perfect match! How about getting the students Language Arts  and Art teacher involved? The initial idea was to make a unit of poetry come alive, study Mike’s poems and visualize the poems by creating illustrations.

Great plan… it snowballed from there…

A quick Skype call between Mike and the teachers, helped flesh out each of our expectations and a timeline for the “project”. A critical component was the participants’ willingness to be flexible and see where the students would take “the project”.

What if…

  • …Mike allowed students to alter his original poems if they felt inspired to remix them, making the creation process fluid and embedding new ways of looking at forms of copyright?
  • … Mike offered to write a new poem to additionally created illustrations by students, flipping the collaboration roles?
  • …we published a poetry book on various platforms? (hard cover/eBook)
  • …we had student run a marketing and advertisement campaign?
  • …we involved the Math teacher to support students in calculating how much the book should cost, what would the profit be, how would a profit be split?
  • …allowed the class to handle the entire business venture?
  • …we incorporated Alan November’s concept of the Digital Learning Farm and leaving a legacy?

Each student was “given” a poem from Mike to be responsible for. We set up a first Skype call with Mike, the author, for students to meet him, ask questions about “their” poem.


Part of our job as teachers was to observe students as they were taking on the roles outlined in the Digital Learning Farm. We were/are looking to identify NEW FORMS of assessment, since our “project” was not to be an add-on to traditional assessment tools.

The Digital Learning Farm


As I was watching students talk to Mike Fisher via Skype, Will Richardson’s call for Thinking Differently About Learning, which includes Learning to Talk to Strangers came to mind. As students interacted, I was watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction. Stay tuned for the publication of a Taxonomy of Skype Conversation to facilitate assessment of video conferencing.


As the Skype conversation was happening in the foreground, other students were busy documenting and collaborating in backchannels. A Google Doc was opened and shared among all students, teachers and Mike Fisher. The multi-tasker Mike is, allowed students to Google Chat at the same time as he was talking to students via Skype.


Other students had taken on the task to tweet the Skype call


Take a look at the 4th and 5th grade Twitter feed, documenting the skype call. Students are exhibiting understanding of Twitter grammar, syntax and etiquette. They are showing progression by starting to add value, links, citations and they own thoughts. They are summarizing and articulating thoughts in 140 characters or less. They are directly communicating, disseminating, collaborating and connecting via social networking.  We are using Twitter and HOTS as a way to assess these skills.









We had other students use different tools to take notes too. The notes app on their iPad or traditional paper and pen



One student chose to summarize what he heard during the Skype call by mindmap doodling. He was able to re-tell the different poems that were discussed between his classmates and the author.



Take a few minutes to peek into the classroom as students were debriefing from the Skype experience.

Poetry Book Skype from langwitches on Vimeo.

So, where do we go from here? The students are very excited and are taking ownership. There is no talk about what kind of grade they will be receiving for their work. An authentic audience will decide if they were successful. Students will volunteer to take on different roles in the publishing, marketing, finance, communication department. We will allow them to take the lead, consulting, coaching and modeling if needed.

Stay tuned as this “school project” unfolds.



Currently there are "43 comments" on this Article:

  1. @mcleod says:

    New bookmark: Learning in the Modern Classroom | @langwitches http://t.co/pDfCeOua

  2. Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/D2WL1Dz5 via @zite. Wow! Check this out.

  3. Mike Fisher says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

    I am so honored to be included with this group of scholars! (I say that EMPHATICALLY!) I’m looking forward to next steps and more Skypes and a visit in April! Engagement = Learning! Thanks, Silvia!


  4. @MrPowersCMS says:

    Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/4eMnzN4D
    @myen #edchat @spslearning

  5. @TabLang says:

    Brilliant idea!,RT @langwitches Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/Sq9Owwgg

  6. @javarob75 says:

    @fisher1000 & Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/w4O8Rkpd via @zite #edchat #edtech

  7. Hello I am Marie Allgood from Dr. Stange’s EDM 310 class in Mobile, Alabama. We are learning educational media tools. I love your blog website! I am amazed that your students know so much about technology. I am even more impressed that they know how to use it and use it correctly. I am so happy that I was chose to view your blog. I feel like your students will be able to teach me many things. I am eager to see how this school project turns out.
    My blog address is allgoodmarieedm310.blogspot.com

  8. @tollsy says:

    Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/hMT0AX8I How satisfying!!

  9. @dfwinters says:

    Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/Dsn82kA9 brilliant project

  10. Learning in the Modern Classroom: I can die happy now I have seen learning in the 21st Century modern classroom!… http://t.co/tcRzsA0Z

  11. New blog post- Learning in the Modern Classroom- http://t.co/MrjpvkxL (with @fisher1000 ) via @langwitches #learning #teaching #eLearning

  12. Silvia, yet a another authentic project coming from your 4th and 5th grade students. So many of the tech tools we have can be used at various levels on the new Digital Taxonomy, but this project has the kids working at the top. As you said, it’s how the kids can apply and innovate with these tools to make learning personal and authentic. It is obvious that the students have been exposed to and used various tech tools and now feel comfortable in selecting the one(s) that best fit their learning style and the task at hand. A wonderful collaborative effort between the different teachers and subjects, enabling students to demonstrate understanding of concepts already covered, as well as creating a motivating opportunity to learn new skills. When kids are focused on the task and take ownership of it to that degree, you know you have ‘em – so much better than any grade mark.

  13. Laura says:

    This is such a great story. I never understood when I was at school why different departments didn’t connect their learning processes better. After all, this is what happens in the real world! It’s great to encourage kids to connect math, language, literature, technology, etc. Keep it up! :)

  14. @lauraahaha says:

    Lovely eg of connecting different types of learning RT @suewaters Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/sZIRrSXC via @timbuckteeth

  15. Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/oCSuEwv2

  16. Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/O5vKODIJ Awesome example of a great learning experience!

  17. Sue Dunlop says:

    Thanks for such a comprehensive explanation (with pics!) of your process. I thoroughly agree with the substitution of “modern” for “21st century”. As @scottrocco says, that’s so last century!

  18. Thx for the new bookmark @PrincipalDunlop; great post/site. 100% implementation! Learning in the Modern Classroom. http://t.co/hEnWomfh”

  19. @blairteach says:

    Very cool project. RT @smeech: Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/DadXOJFO

  20. Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/aoQBpNMX @docsmatthews

  21. #upgradeyc featuring @fisher1000 Thanx @langwitches Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/FHpa0AAw via @Diigo

  22. Learning in the Modern Classroom- Wow! Great things taking place! #edtech #4thchat #elemchat http://t.co/JRaEqY1N

  23. @MsSalt84 says:

    Awesome! Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog #Education #creativity #creativeteaching #learning http://t.co/2WhOl5Pe

  24. @mikeparent says:

    Top story: Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/HCquu06a, see more http://t.co/qmLbURq8

  25. @BookChook says:

    Love 2 read of exciting authentic kid learning! Langwitches Blog | The Magic of Learning http://t.co/gH9BigYz

  26. Great Example of Collaborative, Authentic, and Creative unit for #languagearts & #art : #edtech #elearning #kispd #edu http://t.co/GZCAI5ia

  27. Top story via Kleinspiration Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/uomUpfUe, see more http://t.co/UoYy5nhn

  28. Top story: Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/kRtuSbxH, see more http://t.co/JGNO0JXI

  29. Learning in the Modern Classroom http://t.co/jKCuV5RL #edchat #ibpyp

  30. Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/UPtB45Ii #edchat #edtech

  31. @mccoyderek says:

    Learning in the modern classroom http://t.co/QcEKOkIQ

  32. @KSteeleTech says:

    Take a look at this great English lesson using the 4 C’s…Creativity, Communication, Critical-Thinking & Collaboration http://t.co/JoLdhmJq

  33. [...] backchannels and assessment (constructive alignment). I had been thinking about Silvia’s a modern classroom and Greg Miller‘s discussion of a 21st-century-skills-report-card. By good fortune, Richard [...]

  34. First, kudos to everyone involved in this project. What a great idea and perfectly carried out on the part of everyone.

    Taking a look at your Twitter feeds, it is clear you have a grasp of communicating and collaborating using social media as a tool. You were able to summarize your call with Mike in a way that worked for 140 characters each time. And believe me, that is sometimes a tough task! You captured the essence of each part of your conversation with Mike and helped those not able to be there feel like they were.

    Cheers to you all on a job well done!

  35. @danabarger says:

    Fabulous post on learning in the MODERN classroom! http://t.co/w3E0FhxRT6

  36. @tomshepp says:

    Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/BeUcA5TRPN #edtech

  37. @fraserfi says:

    Inspiring example of: Learning in the Modern Classroom | Langwitches Blog http://t.co/Usa9vBpezh

  38. […] Langwitches blog, there is a post about using technology in classrooms. There is a great message that really […]

  39. […] This blog post discusses how it is not how much technology we use, but how we use it that makes the real difference. One idea from this blog that I had never thought of is Skyping with other teachers in order to collaborate outside of school hours. I really like this idea because it’s always a good idea to hear the point of view from your fellow educators. The article also talked about forming a new way of assessment through the use of technology: […]

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