Forget 21st Century Teaching and Learning

So you’re over 40. Been teaching for more than half your life. And your school has decided to introduce technology into the classroom. Computing devices in the hands of all your students. What do you do? Bury your head ostrich style? You’ve faced new fads in education before and this whole 1:1 approach will go away. You rave and complain to all who will listen? With all your experience and expertise, someone is bound to listen and take notice of you? Or you simply retire and head for a quiet life up North or down South, wherever your dollar stretches the furtherest.

Or worse still. You are 20 something, a so called digital native. Everyone expects you to intuitively know how to introduce technology into your teaching. But your teacher training did not stretch to full immersion of technology in the classroom. Best you follow your older colleagues and find a quiet life away from teaching!

No of course you don’t. You repackage your tried and tested ideas. You pimp up your teaching like never before. But how? How do you take a ‘ chalk and talk’ lesson on essay structure, for example, and make it different? How do you introduce technology into a traditional setup? How do you transform your teaching as suggested by Dr Ruben Puentedura in his SAMR model? The best way is to find one technological tool that you can master. Just one.

You repackage your tried and tested ideas. You pimp up your teaching like never before.

For me it was the app Explain Everything. But there are many to choose from, depending on your device. Educreations, Powtoon, Videoscribe to name a few. What these tools allow you to do is record your lesson. This is the most powerful way to differentiate in your class. No longer are you tied to the front of the class as you meticulously and eruditely roll out your ‘tried and tested’ essay plan. Rather you provide your class with the recorded version of your lesson. The bright sparks will whip on their headphones, have a listen and will fast forward through to the essay topic and get started. The slightly less able student can pause and rewind,working more slowly through the presentation. That leaves you to call the handful of students that you know need extra help to sit with you as you guide them through the essay writing process. So instead of standing in front of a class where your words get absorbed by the walls, you target your audience very specifically.

But would this work, or is this some geek’s idea of what should be happening in classrooms? Yes it does work. I have tried this approach a number of times with the same outcome every time. The class soon establishes itself into the three groups listed above. Once you’ve got your head around the fact that you don’t need to be anchored to your board, you can then start experimenting with flipping your lesson. Get your students to watch your recorded lesson the day before. Come to class with some prior knowledge.

What do you need to get started? It is really handy to have a YouTube channel. There are other ways of doing it, but this I found is the most simple way of uploading material. Setting up the channel is as easy as opening an online account. Next you need to choose an app or site which allows you to add pre- existing work but has the added feature of a record function. The Explain Everything app is easy to use and lets you re-record if you don’t get it right the first time. The steps to take are:

  1. Open your PowerPoint or Keynote presentation in Explain Everything.
  2. Record over each slide, remembering to use the pen function to highlight key words as you go.
  3. Hit the “export to YouTube button.”

Within a few minutes your presentation will be on YouTube, ready for you to embed on your blog or LMS. Or if you prefer, simply email the link out to students and colleagues. Most of us have our work in some digital format. The beauty of these apps and websites is that you don’t have to start from scratch. You can take the digital version of your work and enhance it. I know we have lots to do what with our marking, admin demands, data capture and co-curricular commitments. But the cliche “spend some time to save some time” springs to mind. The lesson that you painstaking rehash year after year is now a click away, only now you can be paused, rewound and even muted!

Albert Einstein had the right idea when he said “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn“. Flip your lesson and watch the differentiation take place in your classroom.


Feature image adapted from image courtesy of Flickr, a4gpa.


  1. Very interesting article! Another way of increasing learner retention is the tried
    and tested way of including an audio narrative into the e-course to help a
    large section of the audience who are auditory learners.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.