Here’s where I collate specific posts of mine that fit this general topic of 21st Century teaching.

Priority no.1 ? 


I’ve covered technical and workflow ideas on this blog a lot but it’s time to properly summarise a teacher’s first priority when the kids have iPads. Now here is where I have an issue with terminology…

Maybe not an issue of “Pedagogy” (As many know it)

Until a few years ago, I would have used the word pedagogy in this post but this now has the wrong connotations for me as it is linked more strongly to ‘teaching’ and not ‘learning’. To many I’ve worked with, the word pedagogy still implies “the way in which I deliver the content to the students”

The tiers collapse

The one-way ‘dumping’ of teacher knowledge into students has never inspired and is just not the way the world operates anymore. Traditional hierarchies of age, resource ownership and societal prejudice are being eroded and we need new generations to be adapting and not waiting for information from the tier above.


What really matters?

In numerous surveys and studies, employers and universities say they desire the following qualities, which many of them say often seem quite absent in young people:

  1. Creative thinking
  2. Independence / self-drive
  3. Teamwork
  4. Problem solving strategies
  5. Confidence to try new things

These are all skills and traits that are not evident in many school leavers either because they were never given the opportunity to develop them or that they existed in elementary school but the classroom routines lacked a need for them and they were lost over time.

Try, fail and develop

Many teachers need to try something that I will admit is scary to think about. Namely, handing over the control of the classroom to the kids! All young people need to experience the pressure & excitement of sorting themselves out, especially within a team. The iPads add a further layer of possibilities and individual power for discovery and presentation and teachers will always be surprised by the quality of student output as long as some freedom is offered in what a team focuses on within a topic and how they demonstrate their findings.

They will fail some of the time but as far as what matters is concerned, these moments become the most important learning opportunities. Developing keen learners who see failure as opportunity must be our first target. This requires freedom and support from the teacher.


Let the kids decide

I have an apps page and make a point of talking about my list’s theme of general purpose and it not being content specific. But it should be the kids who make this decision. There are many apps that my students are excellent on that produce fantastic output in a format I’d never imagine but of course their peers respond to much more genuinely.

Also, in a major meta-data study by John Hattie, the number one driver in student performance was self-reported grades / expectations. (See Info-graphic – the full version can be found with a google search)



What I often do now…

  • Divide my topics into important sub topics
  • Get the kids into groups (3s works best for me but 4 if I have to)
  • Pose a ‘driving question’ to the class that doesn’t have a specific ‘correct answer’ E.g. “Should everyone contribute to the web?”
  • Offer supportive questions to spark the groups conversations and give them areas to look at.
  • Get the groups into the habit of recording their discussions and discoveries in their favourite format. (Some group message, some audio record, some mind-map)
  • Have a shared class “success matrix” for every group to add to which outlines what would make a successful group product in general when covering the topic, answering the questions plus also product quality.
  • Challenge them to “AppSmash” their learning as a way of sharing with the class. “App-Smashing” is where content created in one app is used in a 2nd app. This forces a little more creative thinking in how to present their learning.
  • Most of the time we then upload, share & comment on other groups’ creations.

Time consuming ?

My time is now spent crafting better and better questions for my class to deal with in ways that suit them best and give them a genuine experience of crafting their own learning and enjoying the process. If we continue to push the idea that you need a teacher to learn then we’ll maintain the same small percentage that develop a real passion for learning right through high school and beyond.

The iPad Effect.

It’s the iPad’s versatility, portability, camera, app selection and user-friendliness that keeps it ahead of the others for education but it’s the approach taken by the teacher to learning within the classroom that realises these benefits, not the iPad alone. Worry first about what you are asking of your students and how much they are reliant on the teacher.

I thought I’d have a go at summarizing all I’d been looking at over the least 12 months. So here’s a poster for you.

The strange thing about a 21st Century approach to teaching and learning is that it makes it easier for the teacher. You do about the same amount of work but it’s different work and a lot more fun and personal. Below is not the only way to do this and I’m developing and changing things every week.  There are also 1000s of tools that can be used but this is approach / pedagogy keeps things simple and puts the demand back on the students to think creatively, work collaboratively, while supported by the relevant material and encouraging the idea that a classroom / school is not always required to learn.


  1. BE SOCIAL : Ensure the students can socialise online within the context of your course. This means the class conversation can be added to by the individual student when it best suits them.
    In junior years this probably means a forum / wiki for each course to allow the students to dip in and out.
    In Senior years (16+), I find the students currently all switch to socialising on Facebook and if your system is separate to this then it only encourages the idea that learning is something you only do in School (or on a school system). With this in mind, I devised (with my students) a completely safe Facebook course setup that allows me to run the course, sending notifications to the students’ personal FB accounts without ‘Friending’ them and having to share personal info. FB group pages allow for video and file uploads, quizzing and peer-support. This has started 24/7 engagement for my senior classes.
  2. STOP CLASS TEACHING! : Delivering any content or concept to a whole group of any age does not work!
    Even in a room of adults, never mind children, there’s the:
    one not listening;
    one who’s talking;
    one that wants to listen but is distracted by something else;
    one who’s absent and needs the lesson later;
    one who would understand if you’d just slow down a bit;
    one who would ask but is scared to do so;
    etc; etc; etc.
    One size fits all has never worked but until the internet (Broadband really) an alternative was more difficult.
    To make a start, using an iPad app like Explain Everything (see apps), anything you want the whole class to understand should be an online video to be digested by each individual at a pace that suits and available to repeat and pause when needed. I have students who sometimes watch them in the lesson itself but mostly at home or during lunch on their phone. At the beginning of my transition, I simply found myself ‘teaching’ / recording in my free lessons (and occasionally lunchtime) a few days ahead of when I would expect the students to be working on the material in the video. I then only have to discuss on request, a specific aspect that an individual might not quiet grasp. Teaching one-to-one is easy and much more enjoyable. I have had colleagues say they already do this by handing out masses of reading before a lesson, but demanding bulk reading exercises of all students also does not work and more so with the 21st Century generations. Those same teachers often continue to lecture to / discuss with the whole class in lesson time anyway.
  3. PROVE YOU UNDERSTAND : Now that all the full-class teaching is removed from the classroom, you can offer the students far more ‘task’ time. This time should be centered on the learning objectives with the students working individually or in small groups to prove they understand the concepts or have the skills. Autonomy over when and how they prove understanding should be given to the students, if genuine motivation to learn is to be realised. From experience, I would have 4 or 5 options for how they provide their evidence. I have students making and editing 5 minute documentaries, producing interactive ebooks, using Mindcraft to build an interactive world all to demonstrate they understand the content. They can then share this varied material in the social LMS you use and receive feedback from their peers without loosing more class time to showcasing / presenting.
  4. WATCH THE GRADES SOAR : Full engagement – No excuses!
    One of my students joked: “How annoying it is to have no excuse to get the task done. you can’t say you missed the lesson or you didn’t understand or you were shy to ask in front of peers!”I have students working at watching videos at very strange times, including midnight. But I feel comfortable to allow them to work in their own way. My more gifted students love it as they can actually work on other subjects’ material in my class, knowing they can catch-up or get ahead accordingly. They love this freedom, especially when there’s a Chemistry test next period! Actually, that made me think. We have to acknowledge that if students know they have a particular subject test in period 4 then as far as focus is concerned, the lesson in period 3 doesn’t happen! But doing away with standardised tests is deservedly well covered on other blogs!
    Whether I was a good or bad teacher before this, my students are happier and have full ownership of each piece they produce plus my grades are up 25%!

5 teaching classics I won’t be using next year. 

1. Classroom Projection

Have you ever been to the cinema to watch a kids movie? A multi-million dollar Hollywood budget is not enough to keep every eye on the screen! So why would I bother to use this form of delivery with 30 teenagers? If they all need to see something then like “real” people do in the “real” world, I issue the link and they watch in their own time. Independent learners find it frustrating to be told to stop their schedule for something.

2. Homework

Homework is proven to damage family life but really there’s no such thing for mobile learners who manage their own work schedule. My results have been much better and of higher quality since I offered “Flexitime” to all my students. Learning objectives are set and a timeframe issued, end of story. Students enjoy the freedom and feel far more obligation to get the work done. It is now after all their work, not mine.


3. Worksheets

One-size-fits-all content delivery allows for no creative thought and makes no sense in a mobile world where information is everywhere, anytime. Worksheets as a control mechanism also only made sense in the factory model of education in the 20th century. If the content of 6 worksheets can be covered in a 3 minute documentary, directed and written by the students then…worksheets…really?



4. Textbooks

RestrictIng and not conducive to either creative or collaborative thought and process so….no textbooks. All school material is available online, so no need for them either.
Online, It’s also often more recent, relevant and entertaining too.



5. Whole Class discussion / teaching

Talking content or concept to a whole class never includes or engages everyone in the room regardless of class age, intellect of character so ….no. All content delivery done through Flipped classroom setup to ensure 24/7 availability. I already have students watching lesson videos at midnight because…”that’s the way I roll, sir!”
In general, the overall idea that because we were bored and controlled at school, then current young people must be just isn’t going to work. Lets all start to learn and collaborate in the ‘real’ world we actually live in.

7 comments on “TEACH 21C

    • My version of “flipped” removes the idea of fixed lessons on a timetable meaning that as long as the students are working on something (it could be for another subject) they can watch the videos in the classroom or at home. The only requirement is that they meet weekly or fortnightly deadlines. I no longer deliver anything to a whole class as I have decided that it never works.

      • So in your classroom, during your hour, they are freer to work on another subject?

        Love your site BTW. I don’t agree with all of it, but you do a great job with the visuals. Keep it up.

  1. Pingback: Education Overturned – redqueeninla

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