Technology and the 4Cs: Communication, Creativity, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking

by Jane Trotter, GPAEA Instructional Technology Coach

Last Spring, 31 area public school districts and four non-public districts participated in GPAEA’s BrightBytes Survey. This survey provided valuable data that reflects the use of technology in our area schools. All data generated through this survey is analyzed using the BrightBytes framework, “CASE,” representing Classroom, Access, Skills, and Environment.  For the purpose of this article, I am only looking at the classroom data. The Classroom section displays how often and to what degree teachers and students are using technology.

The illustration below is a screenshot of the classroom data aggregated from all GPAEA districts that participated in the survey.  Do you see what I see?  What draws your attention? My eyes jump to the gray bar – “Teachers’ Use of the 4Cs”.  The 4Cs are communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.  They directly align with Universal Constructs found in the Iowa Core.  Does this data cause you alarm?

What does technology bring to us that will enable our students to develop communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking skills?  As I have been researching and preparing to write this article I have amassed lots and lots of resources. I will share a list at the end of this article but first I’d like to  share an experience I had with technology this morning. Hopefully it will illustrate the power of technology and the 4Cs.

With coffee in hand and iPad on my lap, I was contemplating my plans for the day.  I was feeling the stress of the due date for this writing. My avoidance behaviors led me to Facebook and “mindless” eavesdropping.  A friend of mine who is on a medical mission field in Sudan had shared a blog post which had been shared with her from a friend in Illinois.  The blog is written by Nicole Patterson, a student at Iowa State University and she wrote an entry entitled, “Why Small Town Iowa Kids are Spoiled.”  The blog entry was written just 5 days ago.  I loved the blog as it brought to mind endearing qualities of my hometown.  It described my childhood very accurately and my friend in Africa, with whom I shared much of that childhood, also had her heart warmed. This blog entry already had more than 75 comments from readers. Many agreed with the writer but others didn’t share her warm affections for small town Iowa.  Isn’t that amazing? People communicating globally around the writings of a small town Iowa girl!  I emailed Ms Platt seeking her permission to reference her blog for this article.  She replied within the hour and was pleased to share.  Think of the miles this digital path has travelled this morning. The author could have jotted down her thoughts in a paper journal or diary and the communication would have ended there.  Instead, she shared globally to an authentic audience bringing many into a conversation around the author’s passion all based upon their choice to participate because of a shared interest in the topic. Readers were provided opportunity to participate in the conversation and share their thoughts. This is an example of 4Cs in real life – communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking.

In his article, “How 21st Century Service Agencies Create 21st Century Schools,” Rob Mancabelli states:

With the advent in just the last few years of a truly interactive World Wide Web where people of all ages and all interests can create and share their ideas, a time of real educational transformation is at hand. As billions of people from all parts of the globe begin to communicate, collaborate and connect in fresh and creative ways, their use of technology is challenging the traditional structures of business, journalism, politics and, ultimately, education. What happens to journalism when everyone has their own printing press? What happens to politics when constituents can have their own voices heard by large Internet audiences? What happens to businesses when their consumers can easily converse widely about their products? And what happens to schools when the sum of human knowledge and thousands of potential teachers are available at the click of a mouse?

One transformation that must take place is our intentional effort to inject the 4Cs into our daily work with students.  We must use technology to connect students with the “thousands of potential teachers” available worldwide, communicating, collaborating, creating, and thinking critically.

Resources

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