How To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

gamma-ray-productionsHow To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

by Terry Heick

Ed note: This post has been updated from a 2013 post because I loved the original so much and it made some people mad, which is always good

21st century learning isn’t a trend as much as a reality. It’s 2015 (almost 2016), so whatever you’re doing in your classroom right now is technically 21st century learning. Semantics aside, we all can improve, and many of us are being held accountable for improvement by administrators, blogs, and the local PLC to “bring the next generation into the 21st century.”  With that kind of pressure—and constant district walk-throughs—it may be necessary for you to fake a 21st century thinking and learning environment to make the right kind of impression with the right people, and give the appearance of forward-thinking.

10 Ways To Fake A 21st Century Classroom

1. “Do Projects”

Projects are what students do in the 21st century. (This is distinctly different than project-based learning, mind you.)

One of the most powerful ways to employ a 21st century learning tone and process is to start big–with broad, sweeping projects that change the world, and give students constant opportunity to revise thinking, innovate, design, publish, and curate because this is what modern students do, right? They publish and connect! So get connecting! Through projects!

2. Create a class twitter account

Then use it to announce trivial things like due dates of 20th century work. (No one will notice—you’re on twitter, and that’s all that matters.) And when you bring up a new idea in a data team meeting, tell them you heard it on twitter. #streetcred #nofilter #nomakeup #Iwokeuplikethis

3. Force awkward and unnecessary collaboration

And when students have trouble collaborating, tell them collaboration is a 21st century skill, throw a calendar at them (or maybe just toss it on their desks casually) and tell them to get with the program. If that doesn’t work, find the closest map and pound your index finger on China and tell them everything’s about to get real in the next fifty years if they don’t wake up.

4. Video conference with strangers!

Video conferencing with classrooms in India—or even in surrounding counties—is a sure-fire example of a 21st century classroom if there has even been one. Fire up the ol’ Mac, exchange awkward questions, smile a lot, and it’ll be over before you know it. No in-depth planning or technology integration necessary! Just conference! Bring on George Jetson!

5. Be dramatic

Play Ken Robinson and Shift Happens videos every 6-8 weeks to keep students on their toes and increase the sense of urgency in your classroom. When parents ask what students learned at school, they’ll definitely remember the video, play it on their iPhone, and create an instant certainty in the mind of the parents that good stuff is happening in your classroom.

6. Buy iPads

iPads support mobile learning, allow access to hundreds of incredible apps, and make children grin. If it’s a 21st century learning environment you’re looking for, a classroom full of students pinching and zooming on little glass rectangles will give it to you in spades.

And lots of them. Download more than you use, to the point that your iPad can’t even update the ones you actually use because there’s no room left. Try for at least a 10:1 ratio here of download-to-use rate.

7. Make students blog

The blog is the new novel. (I read that on a blog.) It gives students an instant audience with millions of potential readers, allows for constantly fluid text to be revisited and revised, and can be even be seen from outer space. Do it yesterday.

8. Go “1:1”

That just sounds all techy. I feel like I might melt into the matrix just typing it. The colon–that means one student per device. There’s no chance that the curriculum constraints, bandwidth problems, or backwards-thinking about learning models and instructional design in your state will mute the impact of 1:1. And even if it does, you might make the local newspaper because reporters don’t understand the difference anyway.

9. Blend, blend, blend!

Go all Kitchen Aid on your curriculum and blend it until it’s unrecognizable from what you taught 3 years ago.

Create short YouTube videos, prime students with questions, and watch them all show up to class chomping at the bit to make magic happen. Ignore that many of the students who need the “flip” lack either the access or the thinking habits to make use of it all. Like a great margarita, if you blend good things happen.

10. Add a column for “Creativity” on every rubric

Creativity is a 21st century currency, and the best way to make sure it happens is to give points for it. They’ll get with the program stat. Rubrics change lives–and administrators love them. And administrators love 21st century learning, too.


So there you have it–10 ways to fake a 21st century classroom. Try one (or all) of them and let us know on twitter how it goes.

(You are on twitter, right?)

Image attribution flickr user gammarayproductions

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I love it!


I love(d) the sardonic nature of this article. Then I look at number 8. Apps on apps on apps Then I look at your most popular posts this month and week: 50 Of The Best Resources For iPads In Education, 8 Apps To Turn Your iPad Into A Digital Whiteboard, 50 Popular iPad Apps For Struggling Readers & Writers, The 55 Best Free Education Apps For iPad, 12 Of The Best Math iPad Apps Of 2012,The 12 Best Children’s Educational iPad Apps Released In 2012 This is so meta now I’m confused and my brain is worrying itself: are you… Read more »

You forgot one, write a “10 Ways to…” post. 😉

This post makes me giggle and makes me sad. Have we hit cynicism already? I guess so.

Yes, all of the above make it look like we’re cutting edge, but when it comes down to it kids just want to be interested and know you have high expectations and care about them. iPads can help with the former if well used, but the latter is way more important.

Leigh Zeitz

This is SOOOO right on!!! It is possible to go through the motions but not develop the necessary atmosphere for learning. The Atmosphere that says that Learning is all about challenging students to learn and then providing them with the support and independence to learn. Education needs to be Teacher lead, but Student Driven.

I posted a wonderful table which compares 20th and 21st Century learning traits on my Blog, It was originally by 21st Century Schools but it has been quite popular.

Amanda Moritz

I have just started my Master’s program in technology and my teachers have us doing many of the things that were discussed up above! If you feel those are things that teachers do to “fake it”, I am curious as to what kinds of things would make it more authentic? I am new to a lot of the social medias our teacher has us using, so after reading your blog I was shocked to see that many of them are what we are required to do.


#Hilarious! I love it! Very true. Thanks for the laugh!

Terry: Very clever! As I made my way through this, I couldn’t help but think about how the same idea could be applied in a larger sense – to “fake” classroom practice that is devoid of technology. We’ve all had that teacher who either drones on or throws the 25 pound textbook at us and seeks to ‘educate’ us with the dreaded command: “Read chapter two and answer the questions at the end”…. Neither does anything to inspire our curiosity or generate any interest in learning. The sad thing is that all the areas you bring up *could* make a… Read more »

Hysterical. A post for the students to love.