You may have taken part in any number of professional learning opportunities while school was out of session to hone your craft. As you think about getting this school year off the ground, take a moment to reflect and sift through your notes. Sometimes you can find themes that can help organize the great ideas that you have gathered. Perhaps you can use them to reinforce an instructional framework that you use.
One framework that I really like is Michael Fullan’s Deep Learning or the 6 Cs. With the goal of enabling educated people to be able to solve problems and “deal with life”, these six skills (character education, citizenship, creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) are crucial to education. Research tells us that when technology is used to facilitate Deep Learning (or the 6Cs), the result transforms teaching and learning. Let’s take a moment to unpack these skills and look for strategies to use.
Character Education includes the ideas of building resilience, empathy, confidence, and well being. Rather than making “character ed” another subject to teach, there are several ways that these concepts can be included in everyday processes and procedures in the classroom. In a previous blog post, Katy Garvey suggested that we use circles as a classroom routine to build relationships within the school community. Sharon Hall’s post suggests that we use the concept of legacy as a catalyst for character discussions. An Edutopia article that I read recently suggests that students write their end-of-year legacy at the beginning of the year to help them with character goals.
Citizenship in this framework involves the notions of global knowledge, cultural respect, and environmental awareness. One way to approach this would be to help students understand the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and/or Human Rights Day. There are many suggested ideas and resources for teaching the SDGs at the TeachSDGs website. I think one of the easiest strategies is to look at the curated book list and integrate a book or two into a lesson where appropriate.
Communication skills defined as “getting students to apply their oral work, listening, writing, and reading in varied contexts” are easy to encourage. Lesson ideas in this area are plentiful including, “Teaching your students to have a conversation” and “Teaching communication skills”. A wonderful tool for students to use to create projects that allow them to practice their communications skills is Microsoft Sway, which is device agnostic and free. If you are not familiar with Sway, take a look at the archive for our Sway Cool Student Projects workshop. In the session, we shared how to create project ideas that help students practice communication.
Designing and managing projects which address specific problems and arrive at solutions using appropriate and diverse tools is the essence of Critical-Thinking. This idea is not new to you if you are familiar with design thinking. TeachersFirst has a curated list of tech tools and websites that would be helpful as you plan lessons that include this type of critical-thinking in them.
Collaboration or working in teams so students can learn with/from others is a strategy that most can agree is necessary for our students. One of my favorite tools for quick collaboration is Twiddla (reviewed here). Along with Google Docs Suite and Microsoft’s Office Online, here is a list of additional free tools that can be used to practice collaborative work strategies. Be sure to try the tools out with a friend before you use them with students. Many times you’ll learn tips about collaborative work that your students might need to know in advance. One tip you may not know is that you shouldn’t “undo” when working collaboratively in a Google doc. It reverses what was last saved…which could be some other student’s work.
Developing qualities like enterprise, leadership, innovation are part of creativity and imagination. One strategy to promote these skills is including maker activities in your instruction. You might also help your students learn about young inventors, as suggested in this blog post.
If you’ve tried any of these ideas or strategies, let us know how they worked for you by leaving a comment below.