The 4Cs (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity) are some of the most important skills students need to learn. They are also some of the most challenging skills to teach.

While teachers can model the 4Cs in the classroom, they know that any skill we want students to understand and master requires that students take ownership of and accountability for their own learning. This means students need to practice these skills on their own—a lot!

Technology can help. It’s a great way to use a platform students already know (and will use throughout their college years and career) to develop these essential skills. Not sure how to use technology for the 4Cs? Here are a few easy ways to start.

  • For communication, try online forums Whether it’s using online forums for the entire class or small groups for class discussions, online forums encourage students to communicate. Not all students are comfortable speaking up in class, and online forums can give shy students a platform to express themselves without the added pressure of speaking in front of the entire class. As with any online communication, encourage students to be constructive during discussions, use evidence to back up claims, and write using proper English to foster excellent writing skills.
  • For critical thinking, try online research followed by an in-class debate – The ability to evaluate arguments and evidence is one of the foundations of strong critical thinking skills. Students need to be able to think independently, conduct research, recognize bias, and construct their own arguments. Try having students conduct online research, evaluate their evidence for strengths and weaknesses, and hold an in-class debate on a topic. Students can also work in groups on the project, reinforcing the other 4Cs as well.
  • For collaboration, try online peer review – My favorite way to encourage collaboration among the class is through online peer review groups. Students upload their assignment and then receive feedback on it, while also giving feedback to their classmates. I give students guidelines for feedback and always require feedback to be constructive and supported by what we’ve learned in class.
  • For creative thinking, try online writing or other digital liberal arts activities – Since writing activities spark and encourage creativity, try using blogging to help students write freely, edit, and publish their work. Encourage students to post comments as well, furthering online discussions that promote communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Want other creative avenues beyond writing? Consider online drawing tools, photography apps, videography software, and podcasting technology. All of these help students flex their creativity while they explore new topics and ideas.

If you want to use more technology during instruction or are looking for ways to up your tech game in the classroom, consider using technology to help students practice skills around the 4Cs. Remember to start slowly with easy-to-use technology and ask other teachers what they are using to help students develop these skills. There are hundreds of online tools, apps, and resources that can help students develop skills around the 4Cs. Finding the best tools for your classroom can help ensure your students practice these critical skills, and are both ready to advance through material in your classroom and prepared for new academic challenges as they move through their education.

 

 

A self-described "education policy junkie," Rachel Land Nystrom loves to combine the research skills she honed while earning an M.S. in Education Policy with her technical writing chops to help others interpret and understand what's new in the education market. When she's not laboring over her keyboard, you'll find her at baseball games soaking up the sunshine or camping throughout the U.S.

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