Part One: Ten Steps… Transforming Past Lessons For the 21st Century Digital Classroom


Welcome to this four part series devoted to bringing curriculum to the digital era. In this series of posts I want to walk you through ten practical steps I have found helpful in transforming yesterday’s lessons into 21st century digital treasures! I even include some awesome links that you will find useful in the process!  Before introducing this goldmine of resources… I want to  thank you for continuing to return and for continuing to share this blog with others. If you haven’t subscribed, please take a moment to do so. You will be guaranteed future posts by subscribing by either RSS or email. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter at mjgormans. I really do enjoy  networking with all of you! Now… on to  that goldmine I promised you. Have a great week! – Mike Gorman (

Quick Note – I have been getting a lot of request asking if I will make a visit to your school, organization, or conference. Please be aware that I am available to assist you in providing professional development and presentations. I have had the opportunity to network in person across the country and invite your inquiry at


I travel across the country presenting and in-servicing teachers and continually post to this Blog various ways to infuse 21st century skills and technology into the curriculum. I remind teachers that it is important to look at successful prior lessons and infuse these past successes with technology and 21st century skills. I often refer to this in my Jukebox to iPod presentation. When looking at this transformation it is obvious that technology made a past great idea even better. Teachers must realize that they have a vault of awesome activities that have proven to be successful with students. Many times these perennial gems can be reinvented, mixed, and transformed to bring about a new 21st century lesson that will be even more engaging and applicable to today’s digital learner. The more I have worked with teachers, the more I have seen a need to build a concrete method for transforming these past lessons. I would like to introduce you to Ten Steps to Transforming Past Lessons for 21st Century Learners. I have even included in my last post of this series a document that will be helpful  outlining these ten steps of transformation.

Part One: Steps One through Three…. Setting The Foundation 

Step One – Locate That One Special Lesson – Find that successful lesson from the past that you wish to transform. This can be one single lesson or may include a project filled with several lessons. While this process is  built for single lessons… this concept could be incorporated for an entire unit. Now is the time to start digging through those files and find that very special activity that is ready for 21st century learning and student engagement. Don’t have one? Then begin with a new lesson idea you have always wanted to make happen. Once you have the idea… get ready for the magic!

Step Two – Declare Your Standards – After all, why are you doing the lesson? What standards in the curriculum are you trying to reinforce?  Feel free to name more than one… but do keep it simple. Perhaps you wish to cover a power standard or a core standard. You may even wish to include the common core! Remember that you might complement your curricular area with a standard in another area. This is a great way to provide relevance to students and possibly even collaborate with another teacher. You may even wish to use technology and collaborate with another teacher outside of your school, district, state, or country. In fact, check out the NETS Standards from ISTE!  Most importantly, start with the standards! Remember, integrating technology means just that… a powerful way to engage and facilitate student competence with curricular content.

– Links to help with Step Two (Some of the descriptions provided by host site)

  • Academic Benchmarks – This is a free on-line digital library of standards from all the states across the United States.  Over 8 million standards searches have been conducted on the Academic Benchmarks site since 2004, with more than 2 million searches in 2010 alone.
  • Common Core Standards – Teachers, parents and community leaders have all weighed in to help create the Common Core State Standards. The standards clearly communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them. The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them.
  • Common Core Explained By Edutopia – Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of dense information out there about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)? You’re not alone. Here’s Edutopia’s guide to resources that will help you make sense of the initiative and join the conversation.
  • ISTE NETS Standards – A major component of the NETS project is the development of a general set of profiles describing information and technology (ICT) literate students at key developmental points in their precollege education. The profiles highlight a few important types of learning activities students might engage in as the new NETS•S are implemented.  These examples should bring the standards to life and demonstrate the variety of activities possible. The profiles are divided into four grade ranges.  Because grade-level designations vary in different countries, age ranges are also provided.

Step Three: Incorporate The 21st Century Skills: Every lesson should include at least  two 21st century skills. You may wonder why I state two. First, I don’t think it will be difficult… and 21st century skills are so important to our student’s futures.  You may actually find your project will incorporate a large number of these important skills.  Second, in using two 21st century skills, you will be sure that one is measurable on a rubric. Research indicates that the three easiest 21st century skills to measure include critical thinking/problem solving, communication, and collaboration. Critical thinking and problem solving can be measured using tests, quizzes, presentations, reports, discussion, and observation. Communication and collaboration can be measured by observation, journals, seminars, and self/peer assessment. Note that three of the C’s  have been mentioned. The fourth C is Creativity. While this can be more difficult to assess… I have included some example links below.

There are other 21st century skills that can be difficult to assess. These 21st century skills include creative thinking, innovation, empathy, inquiry, intrinsic motivation, and meta-cognition.  The  rubric selected, or constructed, may record the skill as simply;  (present/not present), or a statement of (“developing”…” evident”… “excels”). It is fair to assume that technology is already a part of the lesson. Thus, the reason that each lesson should include two 21st century skills. Technology, unless if it is a course standard, should probably not be assessed. Remember it is the student outcome including content standards and 21st century skills that is the subject for assessment. The technology should be transparent!

– Links to help with Step Three  (Some of the descriptions provided by host site… linked docs from the host site)

Partnership for 21st Century Skills – The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a national  organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student. As the United States continues to compete in a global  economy that demands innovation, P21 and its members provide tools and resources to help the U.S. education system keep up by fusing the 3Rs and 4Cs (Critical thinking and problem solving, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity and innovation). While leading districts and schools are already doing this, P21 advocates for local, state and federal policies that support this approach for every school. Learn more about the Partnership and the Framework for 21st Century Learning.

Links For Critical Thinking Evaluation

Links For Creativity Assessment

Links For Collaboration Assessment

  • New Tech High Collaboration Rubric – New Technology High School created a rubric to assess student collaboration and teamwork skills. The rubric measures collaboration and teamwork by students’ leadership and initiative, facilitation and support, and contributions and work ethic.. Available from Route 21.
  • BIE Collaboration Rubric – This rubric helps assess students’ collaboration skills in the categories of Responsibility for Oneself, Helping the Team, and Respect for Others.

Links For Communication Assessment

  • Rio Vista School Communication Rubric –  Rio Vista Elementary uses this rubric to to measure students’ communications skills. It offers strategies for clearly and easily evaluating oral and written communications, as well as the usage of presentation tools and technology. Available from Route 21.
  • BIE Presentation Rubric –   This rubrics helps assess students’ presentation skills in the categories of Eye Contact & Physical Presence, Speaking, Organization, Audio/Visual Aids, Response to Audience Questions.

Thank you for joining me in this series on Ten Step Lesson Transformation. I hope you have found new information for use in your school and to share with other educators.  As always , I invite you to follow me on twitter (@mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit.   Watch for other posts in this series including:

  1. The remaining seven steps with some incredible links!
  2. A Document that will allow educators to use this series as they plan their lesson! 

To ensure you do not miss one of these valuable posts or any other resources covering PBL, STEM, 21st century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week… enjoy the exciting process of transforming a valuable lesson! – Mike (


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10 responses to “Part One: Ten Steps… Transforming Past Lessons For the 21st Century Digital Classroom

  1. Pingback: Part One: Ten Steps… Transforming Past Lessons For the 21st Century Digital Classroom « Educational Discourse

  2. Pingback: Classroom Technology - Transforming Past Lessons For the 21st Century Digital Classroom

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