BUILD a Box of 21st Century Learning

Guide your students to BUILD a "Box of Learning."

Each lesson and unit of instruction you plan is spread out across a wide range of mandatory teaching topics; including the necessary curricular content of Common Core State Standards (CCSS), State and local learning benchmarks, as well as, standardized tests that evaluate not just their knowledge but our teaching ability. As a result, hours of time are spent meticulously managing each curricular item and learning benchmark to ensure that it's incorporated on the surface area of the instructional unit. Your plans are written, developed and these items are checked off. When it's all done your lessons cover every curricular need and learning benchmark -- proud you are and proud you should be. Your due diligence has allowed you to embed curriculum across your content. But after some careful self-reflection you realize these lesson/s and/or those of the past are missing depth or mastery of the material and are perhaps uneventful activities. Are you tired of your lessons falling flat on their face like a piece of cardboard? Are you looking to expand your teaching style?

Flat card board lesson planning is many times the result of our fear -- the fear of not covering everything. As educators we become cognizant of the fact that standardized tests contain certain, bench-marked items. Therefore ALL of this earmarked material must be covered or students will perform poorly on the "test" and then we all "fail" -- figuratively and literally.

Let's overcome our fears; let's transform our flat card board lesson planning into a 21st Century learning opportunity. We all start our planning with a flat piece of card board. It's necessary to know the learning benchmarks and the curricular content -- this is the most grueling and time consuming part. Here's our goal: take that flat piece of card board (aka your old lesson/s) and work with students to demonstrate or show them how they can fold it, change it's shape and make it into a box that will hold their knowledge until it can be released, used and then restored again. ALL teachers have card board, the question is how are you presenting it for their learning?

Is it necessary to have a "test" to assess learning? When we utilize diagnostic, formative and summative evaluations it doesn't need to be in the form of a pretest, quiz then a test. Project Based Learning (PBL) using a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), or if fortunate enough to be in 1:1 environment, is a more powerful mode of learning.

Don’t Stifle Learning Paths -- Open New Ones

Embed those curricular and learning benchmarks into an innovative BYOD-PBL Activity using a rubric and let students create from a flat piece of card board their own unique box. Allow students to demonstrate their learning in whatever mode they choose. Perhaps in the form of a screen-cast, a TEDx style presentation, a live puppet show, or they can publish their work to the internet in the form of a blog or web site, etc. Encourage students to collaborate with other students. Open it up not just to work with with those directly in class but perhaps with others across the world using social media. Leave open the option to work individually for those that choose such a route - don't stifle learning paths open new ones.

The goal of 21st Century learning is to allow students to develop career skills within our classes. Let students develop their arsenal within your midst. Unleash student creativity. Consider the box of knowledge to be their portfolio; something that will assist them at the next level and be built upon for years to come. Don't be handcuffed in your planning by curricular demands and benchmark prioritization -- allow students to delve into the content and extrapolate it through their own research, communication, collaboration and development of a product. Be the Lead Learner of Box Building.

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