21st Century Learning and Assessment Example

Yesterday I wrote a guest blog post for Edutopia on 21st Century Assessment and learning. In order to keep things concise, I only provided a brief example of how to incorporate this type of learning into the classroom. However, today I am going to share my wikispace and show you one of my assignments that I am starting today with the novel The Kite Runner. The assignment covers a variety of skills and objectives and asks students to seek out information, think critically, and answer a question. This question does not have one solution and is open to interpretation. I am asking students to present their findings using any method they see fit. In order to keep track of progress each student will be sharing a Google Doc with me and are required to update their daily progress and provide a summarized brief of tasks, roles, and what they accomplished for the day. I have found this method is essential when using group work forums. Students can easily get lost or skim by in a group, therefore, it is essential to track their progress and have them assess each other.

Here is the assignment. You can also access my wikispace with this assignment and other ways in which I have been using this platform and incorporating various learning tools.

Today’s Focus: The Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan: Symbolism in Chapter 10

1. Go to the Springfield Township Library Search page. Use Google “News Timeline” to research the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Remember, this occupation started on December 24, 1979 and lasted until February 1989.
2. Find some information on the Soviet Occupation of Afghanistan during this span of ten years and answer one of the following questions:

  • How is the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan representative of what is happening in The Kite Runner thus far?
  • What effect does this occupation have on family and traditions in Afghanistan?

3. Organize your information and be prepared to present this to the class. This will be your test grade for chapters 1-10. Your presentation may be done individually or within a group. Everyone must take an active role and each group member must organize their information on a Google Doc and share it with me. The Google Doc must include:

  • Group members names
  • The Question you are covering
  • Links to any information, images, or music that you plan on using. All of this information must be cited properly
  • Tasks you accomplished and everyone’s role in the group (i.e. creating the presentation, organizing information, etc.)
  • A daily brief summarizing what you accomplished for the entire day.

You will be graded on the following criteria:

  • Did you answer your question? When you are doing your research you must always refer back to your question. I’m not looking for a concrete solution, but I’m seeking you to think critically about the subject and follow through with supported opinion and a logically constructed answer.
  • Did you play an active role in the group? What role did you play in your group and did you participate actively and equally with all group members? If you and your group can answer yes to both, then you will receive full credit for this component.
  • Did you present well? Is your presentation method creative and interesting to the class? Did you think “outside the box” and move beyond a powerpoint or create a dynamic powerpoint that serves as a backdrop rather than a slide inundated with bullet points?
  • Knowledge of content? Did you discover the symbolic meaning of this invasion as it is related to Kite Runner? Did you present the material in a way in which you know and understand what you are talking about, rather than letting the powerpoint talk for you (i.e. DON’T KILL US WITH BULLET POINTS!).

NOTE: A special thanks to Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza) for creating an amazing student research start page at Springfield Township HS Library.

My Next Steps

A month ago I was hired to be the Director of Instructional Technology at Boys’ Latin Charter School. I proposed the idea in the fall of 2009 and the idea soon became a job proposal. I interviewed, was hired, and now I’m devising my next steps as our school year winds down towards the summer. At times I feel overwhelmed with seeing this position through and finding the time to keep track of everything I want to accomplish for next year. On top of that, I’m also designing the curriculum for the AP English Language and Composition course that Boys’ Latin will be offering for the first time next fall. So where do I begin? Where do I start? Should I just tell all of my colleagues to begin belching into voicethread, followed by a transitional roller coaster prezi that ends with a thirty second animoto clip? This plan is probably not the best idea unless my goal is to acquire seething stares rather than tech driven lesson plans.

Ok, so this is the part where you give me an answer. Give me some direction!

I’ve decided to divide this process into three steps. Three bullet points that will help me guide the next 6 weeks of school and not drive my exhausted colleagues crazy.

1. Survey Monkey

Survey Monkey, of all the monkeys, you’re my favorite. And I will use you to find an ideal starting point for fusing technology and curriculum at Boys’ Latin. The one thing faculty members can’t stand is a PD that throws technology at them and does not provide ample time to break it, fix it, and learn it.

Technology should be introduced in summer PD sessions and allot enough time for your faculty to find a comfort level with the new application they are using while not being overwhelmed by grading, parent emails, and planning. I’ve seen former colleagues put their laptop screens down during an ed-tech PD and stare at the presenter for the remainder of the session. There is always one. Getting that one on board is my goal.

Finally, this survey will give me insight into what my faculty wants to do with technology in their classroom. I have seen districts force teachers to use technology just so they could look like a tech driven school. This never works. Teachers can present 21st century lessons and learning without having aspect of technology in the classroom. The grand assumption in 21st century learning is that classrooms need laptops, cameras, wikis, moodles, pods, etc. But that’s not true at all. 21st century learning skills take the context of contemporary times; bring those ideas into the classroom through varied lessons, assessments, and collaborative projects that provoke student learning. One of the greatest skills a student can have in the 21st century is the ability to filter through a plethora of information and seek the best pathway to an answer. Tangible technology is only one component of this new style of learning.

2. Connect and Organize

The one element that is lacking at Boys’ Latin is interconnectedness between Administration, Faculty, Students, and Parents. At the beginning of the year we were given cell phones, but only half the faculty consistently use and charge them (I suggested Google Voice Numbers). Some of us are on twitter and most are on Facebook. I know a few colleagues who understand the brilliance of using Google Docs, but for the most part, go unused. This is sad.


Because most districts, charter schools, and private schools have the ability to connect like never before, but are not using these forums effectively. All of these applications are free and require little effort and time to manage. Here is where I hope my new position can shine in the early stages.

I’ll start by introducing a handful of applications that will unify the school’s tangled web of communication. I plan on starting with a wikispace where all of my colleagues can share resources: links, blogs, wikis, etc. This gives everyone a chance to share and build a resource library.

The next step will be to get all of my colleagues signed up on twitter. I have gained so much from having a twitter account and creating a personal learning network of teachers around the globe. Imagine an entire school community using this forum effectively. The possibilities for interconnectedness and collaboration are endless. Teachers can share resources, updates, and plans that go far beyond the school web page.

Finally, I want to give the faculty candy. Yes, candy. Here is a Butterfinger or a packet of gummy worms for trying out this new technology. I want to keep it simple and allow them to break it, fix it, and learn it. I don’t want to overwhelm them with every clever new presentation tool or acronym floating around the Ed-tech movement. In the end, let them play and give them candy.

3. Collaborate

I want to sit down with each department and work on creating collaborative lessons and projects that are inquiry based, provoke student thinking, and challenge students to seek out the best answers to questions they generate themselves. The focus in these meetings will be the content, standards, and objectives that each project will highlight. In many planning meetings and classrooms I notice technology abuse. Teachers use technology as the focus of the lesson and forget that the content, standards, and objectives still drive lessons and always will.

The meeting outcomes will not resemble a well constructed lesson plan, but simply content that my colleagues wish to enhance through the use of a collaborative technology project. My job is to turn that content into a lesson that will use technology and align to 21st century skills.

These are my first and next steps as the newly appointed Director of Instructional Technology or as the call me on the streets, “MC DIT”. As some of you quickly email that attempt at humor to fail blog, stop for a minute, and give me your feedback on my progression. Offer suggestions and constructive criticism. I’m sailing into uncharted waters and have an idea of what course I want to take, but sailing with an experienced crew is much better than going at it alone.

Thanks for reading and be sure to check in as I chronicle my experiences as Director of Instructional Technology.

*Image Courtesy of “God At His Computer .” Atheist/Agnostic. Web. 7 May 2010. .

The Return of 1

In July of 2009, I launched The One Comment A Day Project. My mission was to promote new bloggers and bring comments to existing blogs. Initially, The One Comment A Day Project burst on to the scene with the celerity of a gazelle, however, it soon became another faded project. The members of the ning remained, however, the collaborative dialogue that made the project so amazing, faded.

This decline happened because the project took off so fast that I, as a moderator and organizer, could not keep up with the progress. Couple that with the start at a new school year and a flooded basement and you have the decline of The One Comment A Day Project. However, in my absence, the members of the project remained true and continued the project along with its collaborative heart.

Now is the time for a renaissance. The One Comment A Day Project will no longer be a project, but serve as a forum for promoting new bloggers and illuminating the voices of the education world. This project will continue to be collaborative, but open up an entirely new forum for discussion and educational dialogue. My vision is that every Thursday at noon and 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, The One Comment Project can come together and discuss two different blogs via twitter. These conversations will be filtered through the hash tag #onecom. After the conversation on twitter, members will then provide constructive feedback on each blog post for that day. The goal is to generate discussion from the content of a blog and continue the conversation through comments and feedback.

Each week, members of The One Comment Project will vote on which blogs to discuss that week. I will accept e-mail submissions for blog posts at ontheroad51@gmail.com. The submission deadline will be Sunday night at 9pm. Once the blogs are selected, we will read each post and begin our conversation on Thursday. Each twitter conversation will be archived so that bloggers can read through the tweets and dissect the conversation. The twitter conversations will allow for authors to participate in the dialogue and even lead the conversation. It is my hope that conversations will linger far beyond the hour time slot on twitter and provoke our thinking and generate new ideas for the classroom and beyond.

If you cannot make a Thursday conversation, there will be RSS feeds on The One Comment Project Ning. Members of the Ning will be able to see archives and also read the blogs that are discussed for that week. I have also set up a Diigo group for The One Comment Project that all members can join. This way, we can create an online resource library of blogs that are making progressive strides in education.

I hope that you join me in this venture and help make The One Comment Project a forum that promotes new and existing blogs, expands the educational dialogue, and provokes our thinking.

Please join The One Comment Project Ning at http://onecommentproject.ning.com/#

We will begin our first twitter conversation next Thursday, February 18, 2010 at noon and our second round will commence at 7 p.m. Please submit blog posts at ontheroad51@gmail.com by Sunday at 9 p.m.

Language 2.0

Today I was called out by one of my students.

I teach tenth grade Literature and Composition class back to back for first and second period. I am teaching them through various Web 2.0 and open source venues. Every now and then we tend to digress into a conversation about technology and its role in the 21st century classroom. I often tell them that technology is changing faster than ever and everyone else is playing catch-up. This is very evident in education and the way in which we use language and communicate. I like to feel that I am on the cutting edge and can see what is around the corner before anyone else, however, today I felt archaic.

During a random tangent in class, we began talking about text messaging and the length. One of my students said, “I bet Marcinek’s text messages are like this five paragragh essay we are writing. He probably uses punctuation as well. “

I paused. Reflected on how cool I thought I was and how quickly I became my father. Standing in front of the next generation of learners and realizing that I was behind. Or was I?

From a distance, I showed my students a text message thread I had going on my iPhone. They all began to laugh and couldn’t believe the length of each individual message.

One student interjected, “How do you spell ‘though’?”

I responded, “Though.”

“What! You mean you don’t spell it tho?”

“No, what’s the point?” I shot back.

“Yo, if I got a text that long I would never read it. I’d be like, delete!”

This conversation, this tangent provoked my thinking and led me to question the relevance of my entire career and what content I was teaching. If this is what kids are currently engaged in, they why am I teaching them to read a novel at length? Why am I teaching them to spell and use grammar if the majority of their day is spent not using it? What is the future of language and grammar and punctuation? Are we on the precipice of a major language shift? And if so, what will it all look like in five to ten years?

In a brief vision I could see the future of education. Students walk into class, sit down in complete silence. I give them a copy of Lord of the Flies which has been shortened to 140 characters. They tweet me their thoughts on the 140 character novel they just wrote. They hurl me shortened adjectives over their all in one, do everything but slice bread Smart Phone. This smart phone is ironically titled Brain 2.0.

That vision started to scare me. Kids spend the majority of their day reading and writing, however, none of it is correct. They read more facebook profiles through the week than content from a text book. They write more text messages, e-mails and wall posts than essays or critical analysis responses. And this, THIS is where we, teachers in the 21st century come in to save the way in which we learn.

*Standing on my soap box* we need to be responsible with the spelling, grammar and mechanics of the English language. Teachers must teach students that when they post on walls, or send emails that they cannot break down language and toss the rules aside. Students must take it upon themselves to know when to type ‘you’ and when it is ok to type ‘u’. When technology is brought into the classroom and students find themselves typing more than writing with a pencil, we, as teachers, as facilitators, must monitor the content to which they present. We cannot sit back and let this slide or we will be disrespecting everything that is good about our language.

However, I still think there is merit to twitter and facebook in the classroom. We should not take this trend and simply ignore its appeal. I have posted before on several lessons which I have built around these two social networking forums. I use concept of twitter to elicit key ideas and focus a student’s thoughts when reading a chapter in a novel. I use the concept of facebook for characterization and reflecting on character arcs throughout a novel. There are plenty more as well. The key factor is that we need to teach our students to not just use technology, but use it with purpose and responsibility. We need to create rubrics that catch students writing when it digresses into text message format on a blog response or a discussion thread. When we combine the two, the technology in the classroom can open up many learning opportunities for our students.

Finally, I asked my students what they thought about the idea of language digression in online and text forums. Here are the two questions I asked them along with some of their responses. NOTE: I did not edit their responses to make my point. This became a teaching moment and a lesson on the responsibility we have when writing online.

Yesterday I was called out by several of you for sending paragraph length texts and it prompted two questions;
1. What are the language requirements or responsibilities when we write online and in text messages?
2. What will become of language if we continue to shorten it in length?

Answer each question in a brief paragraph. I will post these responses on my blog and share the comments and reader responses. Proofread your response for spelling and grammar.

1. i tnink that u can use and make ur own language when we write in txt meassages and in e-mails but when we are doing something professional then we need to use the write way of spelling and talking.

2. i think that sometimes you may forget how to spell a word or two nbut i think we will be fine.


When you’re online you try to talk proper and try to make sure you spell your words right. But when you text you spell words a different way. If we keep spelling words short i think that it will be hard to write a story..!


The language requirements for certain people when there writing online is just being thrown out the windows when they are online but at the same time it’s still there in ways too. I say this because when we write a text message we do still use things like acronyms in our text messages. If we continue to write like this our language will be way different because most people will want to write the word in a different way than it is properly spelled


When many people in the world don’t always follow the rule of language while they text. They either use lol (laugh out loud ) idk (i don’t know ) and for the people who follow the rule of language don’t always know what it means. Many people throw out the rules of English because they figure that they don’t have to apply it to modern life. The same for online like myspace facebook etc . In other words people now days are too lazy to type a full sentence, and instead write a response to have less to type .the language rules we learn now could be no use if we continue if we don’t apply at all times.


With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility

Today we started a new trimester. We had shortened periods today so I decided to follow up with the #edchat topic from last evening. The topic asked, how could all education stakeholders balance the need for learning vs. the need for network security and safety? The conversation was very engaging and I left with some good insight from my PLN.

Today I decided to see what my students thought.

First, I played them this video clip.

I took their responses after it was finished.

“Technology is everywhere.”

“Most kids are on facebook and other sites while their teacher is teaching”

“Our jobs are not made yet”

“Most teachers don’t use technology, because they don’t understand it”

I was pleased by each reflective response. Several responses led into brief conversations about technology and education. Once we finished our discussion, I reemphasized how important technology and education are to their future. I quoted Spiderman by saying, “with great power, comes great responsibility.” I asked them what that saying means to them in the context of technology in the classroom. Responses followed…

“there is so much on the internet and we have to be careful where we go.”

“the internet is full of freaks”

“we have to be careful what we click on in case we get a virus”

Again, I was pleased with the frank responses to this question. Each student said their response with subtle hesitation as if they didn’t want to “tattle” on someone next to them. It was an interesting discussion that eventually led to this…

I wrote on the board in bold letters: ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY FOR TECHNOLOGY

Based on our discussion, I asked them what kind of rules we should have in place for using technology in our classroom and what should be some of the consequences for inappropriate use. Here is what we came up with…


  1. No social network sites in school
    1. Myspace
    2. Facebook

  1. No games
  2. Laptops are not to be used for notes
    1. When teacher is talking, laptops are down
    2. Notes can be written and transferred to computer
  3. No Youtube unless it is being used for a presentation or reference
  4. No inappropriate searches for images
  5. Background must be a solid color

And that was it. This is the list we generated and tomorrow I will be sending it home as a hard copy for parents and guardians to sign. The students will bring the contract back, sign it themselves and then had it in to me to sign. I will also make a copy for our principal and our IT department.

When a student breaks a policy what should happen? Here is what the students came up with…

  1. First policy offense – cannot use laptop for the rest of the day. Parents and Administration notified
  2. Second policy offense – cannot use laptop for the week and assignments will be done through another platform (i.e. pen and paper). Parents and Administration will be notified. Student will also have an after school detention.
  3. Third policy offense – student will lose laptop privileges. Parents, Administration, teacher and student will have a conference. Student will have to earn his laptop back by completing the following:
    1. Write a laptop reinstatement letter to teacher and administration detailing why they broke policy and why we should let them have their laptop back.**

**If student has his laptop reinstated and break a policy rule again, the laptop will not be used for the rest of the year.

This is our plan. The plan was created by the students for the students. A contract was signed and will serve as an agreement between all parties. Again, with great power, comes great responsibility.

As educators we can only monitor so much. However, if we give the students the power to govern themselves and act responsible then we can feel comfortable knowing they are using technology as a powerful tool while maintaining responsible behavior. It is not to say we should sit back and not monitor screens, but hope that the students feel they have put something in place that they created and will now live up to.

My Proposal 2.0

This is my proposal. This is my initial pitch for technology reform in my school. Our students have laptops and our classrooms have smart boards, however, at this point we just have aesthetically pleasing tools. How we use these tools, how we integrate these tools, will define how our students learn in a 21st century context.

A lot of schools wear the badge of technology proudly on their sleeve, however, how are they really incorporating these new tools? How far do students travel beyond Microsoft Word and Powerpoint? In short, could we run the same class if we were using word processors or typewriters? If you answered yes, then you are not integrating technology.

“We never use our laptops.”

This comment was all it took for me. I began by engaging my PLN and looking back through the previous work I had done with technology integration (most examples are found on my blog archive). I found standards for the 21st century student via the NCTE framework for 21st Century Learning skills and assessment. I wrote the following proposal and presented the idea to my administration. This was only step one. Step two will take place on January 13 when I will present a PD to our faculty. This presentation will run roughly 30-40 minutes and include time for “playing around” with new technology “toys”. Teachers will work on writing their technology integration plans and select one, maybe two, new learning tools to incorporate into their curriculum maps.

This is exactly what I had hoped for when I addressed my administration about this idea. They were receptive and excited about getting our technology plan in order. The other end of this is the possibility of a new position for next fall. I would still teach a few ELA classes, but my other focus would be working within classrooms to help teachers incorporate, utilize and effectively monitor technology use in their content area. I would work hand in hand with teachers to design and implement tech-driven lesson plans.

Like riding a bike for the first time, it is good to have someone guiding you. Eventually they will let go and we will be off on our own, riding without assistance. The same can be said for implementing technology into our curriculum. We need to guide our teachers, give them the initial assistance they need and eventually let them ride on their own. My school is giving me this opportunity, and I plan on making our school “cutting edge” “21st century” “2.0” and every other neo-buzzword you can think up.

As with any post I write, I look forward to hearing your feedback, comments and suggestions. If you have traveled this road before, please feel free to contact me with comments about your experience.

Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist
Job Proposal by: Andrew P. Marcinek

Please consider the following job proposal for a new position for Boys’ Latin Charter School of Philadelphia. The title I am requesting is “Curriculum & Instructional Technology Specialist.” If awarded this position, I believe I can use my experience, talents and abilities to help our school be on the cutting edge of Virtual Learning and 21st Century Skills.

Job Description:

The Curriculum & Instructional Technology specialist will collaborate with administration, teachers, students and parents in the area of instructional technology synthesis. This position will work in creating a school wide educational technology curriculum, synthesize all content standards and technology standards and work with teachers to incorporate technology into all content areas to meet the needs of 21st century skills.

21st century skills

  • Information and communications skills Examples:
    • Using communication, information processing, and research tools (such as word processing, e-mail, groupware, presentation software, and the Internet) to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and communicate information). These skills include information and media literacy skills.

  • Thinking and problem-solving skills Examples:
    • Using problem-solving tools (such as spreadsheets, decision support, and design tools) to manage complexity, solve problems, and think critically, creatively, and systematically.

  • Interpersonal and self-directional skills Examples:
    • Using personal development and productivity tools (such as e-learning, time managers, and collaboration tools) to enhance productivity and personal development. These skills include accountability and adaptability skills.

  • Use digital technology and communication tools to access, manage, integrate and evaluate information; Construct new knowledge; Communicate with others effectively. Examples:
    • Using 21st Century tools (such as word processing, e-mail, presentation software, the Internet, spreadsheets, decision support programs, design tools, e-learning, time management programs, and collaboration tools) combined with learning skills in core subjects equals 21st Century Skills (ICT Literacy) Teach and learn in a 21st century context.

  • Learn academic content through real-world examples;
    • Learning must expand beyond the four classroom walls. Teach and learn 21st century content (3 emerging content areas) Global awareness, Financial, economic and business literacy, and Civic literacy. Use 21st Century Assessments that measure 21st Century Skills High quality standardized tests Classroom assessments for teaching and learning.

21st Century Assessment

· Supports a balance of assessments, including high-quality standardized testing along with effective classroom formative and summative assessments.

· Emphasizes useful feedback on student performance that is embedded into everyday learning.

· Requires a balance of technology-enhanced, formative and summative assessments that measure student mastery of 21st century skills.

· Enables development of portfolios of student work that demonstrate mastery of 21st century skills to educators and prospective employers.

· Enables a balanced portfolio of measures to assess the educational system’s effectiveness at reaching high levels of student competency in 21st century skills

Suggested List of Performance Responsibilities

Curriculum and Instructional Support

1. Monitor the use of instructional technology to ensure that resources and activities enhance rigorous academic content and the school’s mission.

2. Assist teachers in the classroom to provide training on the integration of technology and curriculum. Offer support hours in tech lab.

3. Maintain blog for teachers, parents, and staff; to share inspiration, assistance, engagement, and resources.

4. Make continuous improvements in key processes, techniques, and procedures.

5. Promote a positive, caring climate for learning. Deal sensitively and fairly with all staff ranging in diverse levels of technology proficiencies.

6. Participate in training and conferences for 21st Century Skills and Web 2.0.

7. Establish technology proficiencies for teachers and students and provide support training model to help them achieve success.

8. Participate in collaboration teams to develop a school-wide technology plan.

9. Develop list of project ideas, to be submitted in August, which would be centered on teacher support and professional development.

10. Seek out professional development opportunities for administration, faculty and staff.

This is an updated version of what I am using to present my idea to our Administration and Faculty. I encourage you to steal this and make it your own! Show your faculty, your friends your tweeps! Enjoy the lack of bullet points and minimalistic approach. If you would like to see what I have done with my wikispaces in the classroom or any other learning tool presented, please feel free to get in touch with me.