Apr 24 2020

Foster the Four C’s of Learning in Professional Development with Technology

Integrating critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity into teacher training is key to preparing students for the 21st-century workforce.

Next-generation education emphasizes the “Four C’s of learning” — critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity — which have become cornerstone skills for learners of all ages. In K–12 schools, integrating technology into the curriculum can bring those skills to life and transform the way students learn.

“Technology is a real enabler and accelerator for the four C’s,” says Helen Soulé, executive director of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, in a Common Sense Education video. “Through the resources and the networks that are available through technology, students can really engage in real-life experiences through their learning.”

Teaching those skills with technology requires the active support and readiness of school leaders and teachers. One way of showing that is by integrating the Four C’s framework into professional development opportunities.

MORE ON EDTECH: How does PD improve teachers' confidence in tech and digital transformation?

Applying the Four C’s Can Boost Technology Professional Development

Getting effective training in educational technology is still a challenge for many teachers, according to a PwC report. In that report, 79 percent of 2,000 teachers surveyed said they wanted more professional development opportunities, and 81 percent said they needed more curriculum plans or course materials.

Yet PD sessions can’t just focus on showing educators how to use ed tech tools. These sessions should enable exploration so teachers can think of innovative ways to incorporate future-ready learning into their lesson plans.

Using technology to foster critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity in professional development is a great starting point. Here’s how.

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  1. Critical thinking: Immersive technology in the classroom is no longer limited to student learning. At the University of Central Florida, professors Lisa Dieker, Charles E. Hughes and Michael Hynes created a mixed-reality classroom called TeachLivE, where educators can practice teaching live lessons in front of student avatars, according to District Administration. The virtual space allows them to work on specific skills such as classroom management. Avatars can be controlled to present teachers with various scenarios — such as kids misbehaving or a parent-teacher conference — that require them to make smart decisions. Teachers can also record their lessons with 360-degree cameras and view them using virtual reality headsets and headphones, allowing them to revisit their classes and think through how they taught a particular lesson.
  2. Communication: Schools can also promote effective communication with the help of videoconferencing technology. This is a great way to reach teachers in rural districts who tend to experience isolation because PD sessions are often held hours away. Today, educators are also using videoconferencing platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex to hold professional development sessions remotely. These platforms come with features that allow teachers to share their screen and easily follow along on presentations.
  3. Collaboration: Many district leaders have also turned to professional learning communities (PLCs) to maintain collaboration with teachers across the district. Microsoft Office 365 Education’s integrated programs, such as OneNote and Teams, enable them to build virtual hubs where educators can connect and share best practices and resources in real time without needing to meet in person.
  4. Creativity: Instructional coaches have found ways to gamify PD to build engagement and enthusiasm among teachers. For example, they’ve created “digital breakouts” on Google Forms, which is similar in concept to an escape room. With digital breakouts, teachers have to solve puzzles or find clues in their PD activity, making it more memorable. Participating in this creative approach also allows teachers to brainstorm new ways to use digital tools they may already have for student learning.

By implementing the Four C’s framework in professional development with technology, teachers will get the experience and training they need to do the same in their classrooms.

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