How You Can Motivate 21st Century Readers with Technology

Find out how using technology in the classroom to can help promote 21st Century Skills with your readers.

"You are not old until you feel old," is something I would say to my grandparents when I was a little girl. And gosh darn it, I certainly do not feel old, until my students start showing me up with their awareness and fluency of technology! The world our students are growing up in, is NOT the world we grew up in, no matter how old you are. But, it's our responsibility to equip our students with the skills that will be crucial to their success later in life. No pressure! ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‰
Before I share my four tips with you, I think it is important to share a little about "What are 21st Century Skills?" I feel like the phrase '21st Century Skills' is thrown around a lot, and has gotten a 'bad rep' as just a buzz word. But, I took some time in my third year of teaching (once I finally felt like I could get my head above water) to really try to better understand what everyone was talking about when they said "21st Century Skills". The website linked above was a big help, and I encourage you to check it out. In quick summary, they are the skills that will allow our students to be technologically savvy, strong communicators and superior critical thinkers.

Flip the format

Like I said, our students are growing up (and will work) in a different world than ours. They have a wealth of technology literally at their finger tips, and therefore unmatched access to information. We can help support them by introducing a variety of text formats. Playaways, Podcasts, eBooks, and even self-created audiobooks can help our students become more aware of the ever growing and changing technological world of theirs. 

Sharing our love of literacy is an imperative first step, but we have to continue exposing our students to the different technology tools that can also support them in their reading journey. Playaways, audiobooks, and text to speech tools, can help bring equity to our classrooms by allowing struggling readers to access information that would have caused them much frustration. Podcasts are a great way to expose our students to different viewpoints, and can help to develop students' critical thinking. One of my favorite lessons ever, was when I pushed into a fourth grade classroom. The students were listening to a podcast about a colonial trade (presented by tradesmen of Colonial Williamsburg), and taking notes for research. My struggling readers were never so engaged and actively participating, because all of a sudden, they were on an equal playing field.

Promote Creativity and Innovation

Following my students' extensive research of their colonial trade, it was time for them to 'show what they know'. They were given the chance to create a cartoon, with self-recorded voice overs. They included facts about their trade, and shared opinions about why their trade was important to colonial villages.

Here is a list of websites and apps that your students could use to make videos to 'show what they know'. My students used Toontastic, which is sadly no longer available. However, Animoto is another student friendly site that I have used in the past, which can accomplish the same outcome of creating animation.

You can further promote creativity and innovation by:

      Find out how using technology in the classroom to can help promote 21st Century Skills with your readers.
    1. giving up control to the students. By allowing students to spread their wings and take charge in their learning they will learn to develop their curiosity. 
    2. encouraging discussions. Students can learn best from each other, and the conversations will help them to begin developing the life long skills needed to work on a professional team. You can support your students in this process by providing sentence frames for accountable talk.
    3. providing time for reflection. When students are given time to critically reflect on the work they have done, they are able to consider things they would have done differently and open up the doors to more growth. 
    4. celebrating wins. Students deserve to know their work and effort is appreciated and recognized. Taking time to celebrate wins, even the small ones, will give your students the motivation and encouragement to keep taking creative risks. 

Collaboration is Key

A little side note: my husband works at a high level technological research university, and he often comments that his students struggle to work in teams. It has been his job, to teach leadership courses that would help these future engineers to develop stronger collaborative skills, and support them in working with a team. 

So, how can we help our students develop the skills they will need later in life? Teach them how to work collaboratively with their peers! We can incorporate daily opportunities for our students to work together. Even our youngest kiddos, can start by working together to complete a puzzle. We can progress them further by asking them to put the letters of the alphabet in order. We can ask our 2nd graders to become 'experts' on a topic, and then work with a partner to share facts that can later be used to complete an activity.  Our 4th/5th graders could complete a similar activity but on a grander scale with the whole class (World Cafe protocol). By requiring our students to rely on another, they can rise to the occasion to be a teacher, and a listener.
You can check out more collaborative protocols to use in your classroom here.

Taste of the "Real World"

I may be in the minority as I confess, I still hand write my shopping lists each week. There is just something about having a growing list on the fridge that everyone can add to (or forget to add to) each week as we run out of things. It's my system, and I like it. However, other than maybe a thank you note, when was the last time you hand wrote something of substantial meaning?

So, let's give our students more of what they will experience in the "real world" - TECHNOLOGY to help them complete a task. Most of our students are pretty savvy with playing games, drawing pictures, even my three year old can capture a pretty good picture. But these activities are not helping them to communicate with others to share their message or point of view.

You can incorporate technology and encourage teamwork with the use of a collaborative "whiteboard" like Padlet or Boardthing. With my littles, I have them work together to see how many phonics based words they can find during their independent reading. For my upper grade students, I propose a question, they can respond on the whiteboard, and their peers can read their response, before leaving feedback.

Is it just me, or does the world not function without Google Apps? I remember when my school finally converted to Google Accounts, I thought the skies opened up and rained Skittles (like only red ones too)! We can begin introducing our students to GAFE (Google Apps for Education) right away. My littles use Google Apps to complete word work activities (GOODBYE LETTER MAGNETS), my older students and I collaborate on their writing, and all of my students use graphic organizers on their devices to illustrate what they learned from a text.
Find out how using technology in the classroom to can help promote 21st Century Skills with your readers.
By introducing these different forms of technology, we can make great steps to expose our students to the types of experiences they will have in the future. 

Find out how using technology in the classroom to can help promote 21st Century Skills with your readers.

I am by no means a 21st Century classroom expert, but I am trying and learning as I go. Each year, I challenge myself to get better at promoting innovation, creativity and collaboration with my students. Please feel free to share ways you have encouraged 21st Century skills in your classroom. I would love you to share your successes with us, so we can all be motivated to try something new or different this year!

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