Building a Deeper Tool Chest

I am in constant conversation with educators around what a “21st century classroom” should look like, and more specifically, what technology should be available in it. Well first of all, I have begun to drop the term “21st C.” off anything (classroom, learning, teaching, literacy, etc), because the term doesn’t make much sense to me anymore. Perhaps is made more sense 15 years ago, when people were looking for a fresh, new, clean and clear big educational transformation. But to me, the term now feels dead. Now, there is some regret here, because I did naively title my Grad project “21st Century Literacies: An iPad Educational Resource” a few year ago.  But like many grad projects, as I finished it, it immediately became obsolete to me. I had moved on already from it in my own thinking. My project became a fence post in my own learning journey and I needed to submit it and move on. But the most interesting part to me about it was that I didn’t move on from the learning from within the project. A wise teacher friend of mine gave me council in the middle of my grad work. He told me to not try and change the world with my project. He then reflected on his own, and even said to me that he felt like he had completed a dozen or so equivalent “grad projects” in his career. His grad studies helped build his skills to go further in his own thinking and learning.

As I extend the thought to how we help equip our students for their next learning experience, I think about what tools are we offering them to learn on in schools. The focus of my grad project was using iPads in Elementary. It was specific to a tool at a specific grade range. But my learning didn’t stop there.  In today’s classroom (to replace 21st C. classroom), I see many tech tools floating around. Schools have desktops, laptops, iPads, androids, cell phones, Chrombooks, etc. All all of them do different things and continually come out with new capabilities. It now has become to me that we clearly moved on from this scenario:


This was the goal of IT departments not too long ago. It was a huge task to have every machine work as expected, and replicated at every seat. But I feel like we have move completely away from these 1:1 initiatives.  I am pointing learners and schools to focus on the learning outcomes,  the learning culture,  and the learning community of the classroom. Then allow the learning environment and its technology needs for the right learning tools to become more apparent. We need to move away from technology as an initiative and toward it becoming an integral part of learning.  We also need to move away from technology as the “be all end all” tool in the class. Not every student needs to have the same tool, at the same time, for the same amount of time. And to that end, perhaps the pencil and sticky notes have a place in a students learning too.  I see how various tools, digital or not, can swim around in a classroom seamlessly when the learning culture and community are at the focus. What is most important is that we provide today’s classroom with choice and possibilities for learners to own their own learning to then take it to their own next learning experience. There is more to this, but I will leave it here for now. Feel free to contribute to my thinking in the comments.


2 thoughts on “Building a Deeper Tool Chest

  1. Thanks David. I appreciate your view of dropping “21st Century…” from your vocab. I have recently noticed that whenever I said it I was doing air quotes – a.k.a time to drop the term! Today’s learners and today’s classrooms must be centered on community and collaboration in my humble opinion – and choice has an important role within our communities. Thanks for sharing your insights.


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