Smart Classroom Technologies

The 4 Cs of Tech Implementation

Julie DavisI am a fan of alliteration, and this is part two of a series of posts. The first article was about “The 4 Cs of Tech Integration.” In that article, I discussed the fact that technology in the classroom can be used for "creation, consumption, curation and connection."

In this article we will talk about "The 4 Cs of Tech Implementation”: critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. In other words, we will be looking at what can happen in the classroom when technology integration is implemented. I do not believe these things only happen in a tech-rich environment, I am just sharing firsthand with you what I have seen happen when technology is involved.

Critical Thinking: Technology allows teachers and students to dig deeper than they ever have before. Less time has to be spent on facts because the students have the ability to research and curate facts quickly and easily. This allows the teacher to ask deeper, "non-googleable" questions to spur more critical thinking. By allowing students to use technology in the classroom, you open the door to leading them to find information, sift through it and discern for themselves what they believe the "right" answer would be to any question you ask. We, as teachers, no longer have to be the only authority in the classroom — the pressure is off. Our students are no longer limited to our view alone, due to the enormous amount of information available to them on any given topic via the Web. This fact alone gives our students the ability to be critical thinkers more often, because they always have to curate any information they consume from the Internet.

Communication: In the 80s, when I was in school, I would pass notes to my friends in the classroom when the teacher wasn't looking or between classes in the hallways. I think of that stack of notes I had folded in a box under my bed for years. Inside those notes were the latest grade-level gossip, the angst of a teen heart, plans for the weekend — I occasionally even discussed things having to do with my education.

Teens haven't changed; just the mode of communication has changed. Students now have the ability to be connected 24/7. While there are things about constant connection that infuriate me as a teacher, I can also see the benefits of it. With access to learning management systems, texting and e-mail, there is no reason students can't always be "in the know" about homework and lessons. We also now have the ability to communicate with ease with our students and parents more than ever before. It takes a village to raise a child — and the village no longer needs smoke signals to help a student be academically successful. We can connect with each other easily thanks to modern-day technology.

I would love our school to have a goal to have all K-12 teachers create a lesson plan online that would allow us to have one "snow day" that didn't count against us. In today's world, what a wonderful opportunity that would be, instead of making up days after that beloved day we've been striving toward all year as "the official start of summer."

Creativity: Technology changes the way that students can recall information back to their teacher. In the past, a three-hole-punched booklet with yarn to tie it all together, a poster board, a diorama, a clay model and a tri-fold display were among the ways students presented what they had learned to their classes. Now creativity has more outlets, including slide presentations, graphic organizers, e-book creations, video presentations, whiteboard app creations and podcasts. Students love options in creation, and their audience can be the entire world now, not just the teacher of the 23 other kids in their classroom.

As teachers, if we give our students a well-written rubric, it doesn't matter how the student chooses to present. This freedom is good for the students, but it also makes the grading of presentations less tedious for the teacher, because every project isn't a cookie-cutter creation like the last. The implementation of technology in the classroom allows students to share their uniqueness more than ever before. They are only limited by their own inhibitions. Lately, students have seen the positives of "app-smashing" to create projects to wow their viewers. App-smashing  is "the process of using multiple apps in conjunction with one another to complete a final task or project."

Collaboration: Technology takes the idea of group projects to the next level. No longer are projects confined to the four walls and time constraints of the school day — or even worse, a parent’s ability to get his or her student together on the weekend to "finish up that project." With the ability to constantly communicate using technology, students can much more easily work on projects together and hone their skills of becoming a "team player." With Google Drive, students can collaborate on a document in a shared folder anytime of the day or night.

The ability to collaborate using Google Docs has also helped students learn to help each other. For example, a student can type the first draft of a report then share it with a friend in class. The friend can than comment on it, suggest grammar corrections, and marks it up for revisions. This helps both students learn how to discern good writing and hurries the process of the writing assignment itself because the teacher no longer has 24 papers to look at, correct and hand back. This means fewer revisions for the teacher to mark later. Some students are even taking notes in class together in a shared Google doc. What one student hears and adds to the document, another may have missed. This gives each student the benefit of three or four sets of ears to record the "important" things in a lecture.

As we integrate technology into our classrooms, we are seeing an increased benefit of critical thinking skills being honed, communication being ongoing and more likely, creativity being maximized and lastly, collaboration happening like never before.