Crossposted on Huffington Post

The term “21st Century student” or “21st Century Classroom” sure gets thrown around a lot. We’re so used to hearing and supporting our pedagogy with it, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? There are many qualities that make up a 21st Century student. In 1956, Benjamin Bloom headed a group of educational psychologists who developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning.

The new taxonomy supports the idea that not all learning objectives and outcomes are, nor should be, have equal in value. Effective teachers frequently refer to this taxonomy to design their instruction to emphasize important learned capabilities (more useful for adults in the workforce) rather than, for example, to emphasize memorization of facts (which makes for easier testing).

With expectations of the future workforce and the proliferation of inexpensive and readily available technology, a new and revised taxonomy (2001) emerged. It plays down the consumer-emphasized, single-player-sport idea of “educational objectives” (in Bloom’s original title) and points to a more interactive idea of what an effective curriculum provides.

Notice that “remembering” although certainly a necessary component to learning, sits at the bottom of this pyramid to higher-level thought processes required for true learning to occur.

Even with today’s emphasis on testing, it’s more important than ever to push our students to achieve higher level thinking. What are some ways that can be done today?

  • First and foremost, parents/families must be involved in a positive way. Students must learn that their parents value their learning beyond the grades achieved on report cards. Parents who engage in competitive conversations regarding which schools their children attend, what page they are on, or what grades they received, might be better off focusing their energy on the learning outcomes of their child’s achievement or lack of. Even with a poor grade on a test or report card, for example, parents can ask, “What did you learn from this?” or “What can you/we do better next time?” rather than, “Why did you get this grade?” The cartoon below from Daryl Cagle had me wondering how I am supporting my own children through their educational journey.
  • Understand and accept the fact that although it pains us (teachers) to reduce children to a grade or score, it’s currently how our system functions and there are many ways to deemphasize grades and focus on the whole child.
  • Effective teachers are harnessing the Internet, specifically the power of blogging, to provide students with opportunities that simply weren’t available even a few years ago.
    • I have my class blog and more importantly, my students have their own blogs where their writing brings them attention, global conversation and motivation for writing more effectively. Check out Lily’s post on bullying, Caroline’s post on Tourettes and Joey’s post on his Karate test. Don’t just read the posts, but also read the relevant and encouraging comments from readers, near and far.
    • Marie Knee, kindergarten teacher, uses video and blogs and interactive sites to create an enriching and transparent classroom where her young students can share their learning with their families and the world.
    • Check out Kathy Cassidy, first grade teacher, for how she shares her students with the world. Teachers, like me, learn daily from these teachers who so generously provide those insights so that we can model our own instruction after theirs.
    • Dan Meyer, high school math teacher, makes math relevant to our real world.
    • George Couros (school principal) blogs regularly. His insights as a school principal create a ripple effect where other school administrators, teachers and students regularly engage in conversation and benefit from his transparent offers to share.
    • There are many, many more examples that you can explore. Scott McLeod’s compilation of exemplary blogs is a good place to start.

So what does all of this mean for you, your classroom and your children? That’s what I’d like to hear from you.

  • What are children able to do today that you have yet to learn (or even understand)? Does that make you feel inferior or empowered to engage in conversations with your children and allow them to teach you (and perhaps move forward in your goals towards success)?
  • What characteristics do the successful adults in your life (family, friends, coworkers) have that make them so successful? Are your children on their way to learning those strategies? What are you doing to help foster this?
  • In your opinion, what ineffective methods are being used with children who would be better served by engaging in flexible grouping, collaborative projects or simply being able take an active part in their own learning?

I look forward to your comments.

Filed Under (writing) by Lee Kolbert on 02-11-2010

Today’s post comes courtesy of student, Joey.

On October 16, 2010 I took my senior dan black belt test in Tang Soo Doo. My test lasted over 5 hours, and consisted of doing

4 different forms of Korean fighting moves. The 4 forms are basic one, psi, pydon chodan, and pydon edan. I also had to do 18 combinations and a weapens form. I did basic one with the bo staff. A bo staff is a big stick. I also needed to break 5 hand breaks and 5 feet breaks.

Filed Under (writing) by Lee Kolbert on 14-05-2010

This post is written by students, Hannah and Julianna.

For the past few weeks, Mrs. Kolbert’s writing classes have been participating in a program called “Books of Hope.” This project is when we write non-fiction books for our sister-school, Lalogi Primary School in Uganda. Each child in our class picked a topic to write a book about. Then, we did some research and collected two or more books to help us get started. Every book we created must have about 15 pages of text and each page shuold have an estimate of 100-150 words. After completing our rough drafts, we typed it up and started our illustrations. To make sure our books had all the materials it needed, we got a checklist that had to be checked off in order for the book to be published.

After the teacher had made sure our books were OK, they will now be binded and shipped away to the fortunate children in Uganda. We hope that they enjoy our books.

We asked a student in our class what she thought of participating in Books of Hope. Her response was, “this was easy and fun experience was cool.” Another student said, “Even though it was lots of hard work, it truly paid off.”

From our observations we’ve noticed that other students thoughts writing, typing and drawing the pictures for these books was overwhelming work.

Filed Under (blogging, technology, writing) by Lee Kolbert on 20-02-2010

In the last of our Expository essay series, Ryan shares his thoughts on why school would be much better if every student were given a laptop to use.

Imagine if each student got a free laptop in school and you are allowed to use it.  It’s an outstanding idea because it has learning games that can give your teacher a break, it can help you understand technology and I can leave a comment on my classmates or teachers’ blog on our school’s website.  I bet laptops will make school ten times better!

Let’s go to Brainpop or Learning Tools!  With all these learning games online, we can learn anything we want or do anything our teacher assigns.  All these games you can play and learn can also lead to terrific grades and magnificent report cards.  You can not believe how fun learning can be when playing a learning game.  Learning games online can also give your teacher a break while you learn.  There are a variety of learning games you can play during school.  For example, Brainpop has videos, activities, and games you can play.  You just click Learning Tools and you will see it along with many other games as well.  Learning games are extremely helpful when it comes to learning, you have to just  wait and see.

Having a laptop can also help you learn about using technology.  It can teach you to type, how to use a computer and a whole lot more.  Soon I will be an expert at technology just like my teacher Mrs. Kolbert.  She loves teaching us about technology when we ask her.  When you get a new computer it usually comes with an instruction manual that tells you exactly what to do.  Always read the directions given to you or something wrong will happen.  The computer might also have some information about setting it up.  Getting a laptop at school would be a great way to learn about technology.

Let’s Blog! Blogging is another reason why we should have a laptop at school.  I get to comment on many of my teachers and classmates and they are amazing to read and comment every day.  Guess what? I can make my own blog post too! I type what I want and put a picture on top.  When my teacher edits and approves it, my blog is ready for people’s comments.  I haven’t blogged yet, but know that my teacher is making it better, so there’s no time to lose.  Now I know that blogging can be as easy as ABC, and I can blog about whatever I want to when we get a laptop for school.

Oh Yeah! Having a computer at school can be an astonishing experience.  We can play learning games, learn about technology, and blog anytime we want to.  Having a laptop computer at school will make me as happy as a pig in a mud puddle!

Filed Under (technology, writing) by Lee Kolbert on 15-02-2010
Do you think students should be given a laptop?  I think students should be given a laptop because you could write stories, you could do tests faster, and you could look up information.
Do you think students should write stories with a laptop instead of paper?  Students should use laptops because they will not waste paper.  On a computer you could just store it on your hard drive.  Also students’ hands will not hurt as much.  Your hands will not hurt if you are just typing.
Students’ tests will get graded faster if you use a laptop!  Also laptops will grade the tests faster than a human.  Another great thing is that the teacher does not have to stay up late grading kids’ papers.
Wouldn’t it be better if kids looked things up on the computer?  What would you rather look up information on a computer or in an encyclopedia?  The computer will have more up to date information than an encyclopedia.  Also, the computer would be faster.  Another great program, for example, is “”  “” is a
free online dictionary.
As you can see I think every student should get a laptop because you could write stories, you could do tests faster, and you could look up information.  In the future more people wil be using technology so let’s start now!