The 4cs – Part 2 Communication

(This is the second part of a series of posts that highlight elements from the 4cs developed by Ken Kay and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.)

Gigapan Image

Gigapan image from Jakarta School


In the early days of digital media teachers spent an enormous amount of time teaching keyboarding and information processing. Today we expect students to quickly learn the basis skills for processing information and sharing insights and knowledge using tools such as word processing programs or email applications. By the time students are in third grade we begin to see projects that combine a variety of media.

One of the keys for effective communication is the ability to express an idea for a real or authentic audience. Blogs and wikis open up new doors of opportunities for learners. In my teaching at Carnegie Mellon University I’ve seen how student writing changes when the writer knows that there is an expert or who will respond. Over the years I’ve tapped into Blackboard’s discussion board to bring online experts like John Bailey, the former Director of Educational Technology for the Department of Education, or Michael Golden, the Director of Educational Technology for the state of Pennsylvania. The dialog between the expert and student developed a deeper understanding and vision for the infusion of technology.

Image from Flickr /Multimedia Birds of a Feather

Communication is not limited to just text. Today’s digital generation gravitates to multimedia. Students think in terms of images and sounds and the mixing of the those media. Apple paved the way for creative production, but today any digital user has a multitude of tools to use that can capture sound, video, graphics, or a combination of media. Tools, like VoiceThread, open up new global opportunities where students can communicate with students from different cultures. Projects, like the Gigapan Project at Carnegie Mellon University, create an environment for digital conversations using artifacts captured by a digital camera. The image above is a great example of how students across the world are conversing about their worlds using digital images. Students at the South Fayette School District, outside Pittsburgh, are communicating with students in Indonesia, Tobago, and South Africa as each shares panoramic views of playgrounds and other learning environments using technology developed by Carnegie Mellon that stitches together a series of images to create a panoramic view.

Digital story-telling is one of the best examples where technology takes a traditional form of expression to new heights. Wesley Fryer’s web site Moving at the Speed of Creativity and Jason Ohler’s web site are just two of the resources of this new art form that uses apps, applications, or any combination of audio and visual tools for students to tell a story to a real audience.

Cloud-based applications like Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 open new opportunities for more than just communication to a single audience member. Now collaboration becomes part of the process for communicating. It’s not enough to share information with just a teacher. In today’s learning environments we expect to see peer editing and peer writing. (More in Part 3 of this series)

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