Teaching is difficult anytime.  Throw in a pandemic, and we have to consider efficient ways to teach and learn.  We must apply our 21st century teaching and learning skills.

Twenty-first century learning has been a buzz word for too long—we are 21 years into the 21st century!  This phrase basically refers to one’s ability to use skills required for success in a constantly changing workplace.  The 2017 National Education Technology Plan states:  

To remain globally competitive and develop engaged citizens, our schools should weave 21st century competencies and expertise throughout the learning experience. These include the development of critical thinking, complex problem solving, collaboration, and adding multimedia communication into the teaching of traditional academic subjects.  (p. 10)

Due to the global pandemic, the application of 21st century learning in the classroom, by both teachers and students at all levels of education (elementary, secondary, and higher education), is now a must.  We cannot keep talking about these necessary skills—we must use them.

The 4 Cs — critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication —  are among the skills included as 21st century skills (more about the 4Cs can be found at this link.).  Of course, these skills continuously evolve with changes in 21st century technologies.  Think of the ways you were involved in remote learning over the past year.  Did you participate in online classes or online meetings? How was communication and collaboration impacted by the online environment? 

Many of us have had to change the ways we think about our role in a “remote” environment.  However, just because we are “remote,” doesn’t mean we have to be disconnected. I recently saw a tweet by Dr. Nathan Lang-Read (@driangraad) that read, “Instead of using the words “remote” or “distance learning,” what if we used other words like “connected learning” or collective learning…”  Technology enables us to connect, collaborate, and communicate in exciting ways.  Let’s look at some fun ways we’ve seen teachers and students become more engaged and connected this past year:

Bitmoji Classroom

Bitmoji Classrooms have been a popular way for teachers to create colorful virtual environments for their students, while incorporating avatar versions of themselves. I had a lot of fun creating my own Bitmoji classroom this semester.  I found the following tutorial to be very helpful

 I also encouraged students in my literacy course at UMHB to create their own environments.  They applied creativity as they completed presentations for a project—they were able to personalize their environment in ways that helped them engage with their audience.  Using Google slides, teachers and students can apply creativity when designing their classrooms or presentations.  Hyperlinks can be used to link to embed content within the presentation. Whether you are a teacher or a learner, consider trying new technology tools to sharing your learning.


Nearpod is a great way to promote participation during a presentation.  Teachers have been using Nearpod to engage students in classroom learning in both face to face and online environments.  It’s a great way to have students follow along during a presentation and participate in embedded activities.  For example, features include the ability to conduct polls, respond in writing or with a drawing, and complete matching activities. In addition, Virtual Reality (VR) images can be embedded in Nearpod presentation. The Nearpod tool can be used by both teachers and students. Students can use this tool to connect with classmates during class discussions or presentations.

Flip Grid

Flip Grid is a great way to promote engagement in course content.  Like a discussion post in a learning management system, Flip Grip enables a learning community to respond to a topic. Learners record and share short videos with the class. Check out some Flip Grid prompts here.

Moving Forward

The technologies mentioned above are not new. They have been around for years.  It is important that we consider the use of technology tools for teaching and learning. The affordances of technology provide ways to engage with online content and to promote connected learning as well as skills reflective of the 21st century workplace.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2017). Reimagining the role of technology in education. 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update. Washington, DC:  Author. Retrieved from https://tech.ed.gov/files/2017/01/NETP17.pdf

The Education Department at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor is a recognized leader in the field of education and in the preparation of high-quality educators. If you’re interested in preparing the future leaders of our world, we encourage you to visit our website and schedule a campus visit.