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Communication: Facilitating and Assessing the 21st Century Skills in Education

“Every art communicates because it expresses. It enables us to share vividly and deeply in meanings… For communication is not announcing things… Communication is the process of creating participation, of making common what had been isolated and singular… the conveyance of meaning gives body and definiteness to the experience of the one who utters as well as to that of those who listen.” – John Dewey

The idea of Communication really is more then a skill… it is a foundation for learning. A baby learns the art of Communication through the very need to Communicate. When students first begin their schooling they are are filled with the desire to communicate. They understand that communication is a two way street. Somewhere along the way learning in school begins to become a one way street. Students become communicated at , expected to absorb knowledge through listening. While listening is a communication skill, it is only part of the communication necessary for authentic learning to take place.

A classroom that allows students to not just listen, but to reflect and communicate with teachers, other students, and mentors provides a whole new scope to the standards and related learning possibilities. Various avenues of communication provide students different opportunities to learn while facilitating those important communication skills. Students can see how texting, emailing, video conferencing, Socratic Seminars, online discussions, and face to face conversation all provides different  takes when communicating. They begin to see how Communication connects with effective Collaboration. It is true that Communication pushes critical thinking by allowing the visualization of a student’s  thinking and the thinking of others. Students are allowed to see how creativity can be used to make their own Communication more powerful. Compare a Ted Style talk to a typical power point. Students must realize that a presentation is more about Communication then the technology prop being used.

The John Dewey quote …“the conveyance of meaning gives body and definiteness to the experience of the one who utters as well as to that of those who listen” presents an amazing picture of what learning in a classroom should look like. How do we create a classroom that exemplifies this style of powerful Communication? The teacher must be intentional and guide students. There still must be moments following student exploration and collaboration where the teacher provides or facilitates Communication. Concurrently, teachers must make sure that their lessons allow for students to practice all avenues of Communications!  Often, this practice can be seen in STEM and PBL classrooms. It is exciting to see students discuss, listen, debate, question, persuade, reflect, and explain their thoughts as they conquer the standards. What tools do we have that help provide and facilitate a Communication experience that provides the opportunity for authentic and deeper learning?

Welcome to the resources! I think it is important to define and promote Communication though its various attributes. The facilitation must be intentional with appropriate scaffolds in place. I hope you find the resources below helpful. Taking the journey toward students centered classroom rich in Communication is a wonderful and rewarding journey for you and your students. Start out taking a few steps with a rubric, a student reflection, or a small lesson. Before you know it your students will take you the rest of the way.  Please enjoy the resources below and be sure to share with others!

Ten Reasons to Promote Communications in the Classroom

  1. Provides students the opportunity to own and internalize their learning by providing an explanation to others.
  2. Facilitates critical thinking by pushing students to visualize their thinking and the thinking of others.
  3. Allows students to practice actively listening providing other viewpoints while building empathy and understanding for diversity
  4. Supports the ability to Communicate in various ways depending on situation and resources available.
  5. Encourages students to reflect and  visualize their thinking and important concepts in content and connections between multiple content and real-world concepts.
  6. Allows for the progression from surface learning, to deeper learning, to a final transfer of learning through reflection on multiple viewpoints, disciplines, and possibilities
  7. Provides an avenue to explore the strengths and weaknesses of different forms of communication involving face to face, virtual, oral, and written.
  8. Supports the power of individual and group voice.
  9. Provides important avenues of communication that allows for active listening, persuasion, healthy discourse, multiple viewpoints, and needed empathy.
  10. Builds the ability to convey a message though knowledge of content along with the ability to deliver a message in powerful and effective ways

Ten Ways to Facilitate Student Creativity in the Classroom and School

  1. Intentionally go beyond remembering and understanding with Blooms (The standards often force teachers to get students ready for the test… which means we miss analyzing, applying, synthesizing which are all a part of important student Communication)
  2. Emphasize different modalities of Communication. ( Have students practice Communication using texting, acceptable social media, online discussions, video conferencing, face to face, and discuss these avenues strengths and weaknesses)
  3. Provide students with a Communication rubric. (Have them look at the rubric before an activity that demands Communication, and once again when they are finished)
  4. Make assessment of Communication an ongoing effort. (While the teacher can assess, have students assess themselves. Self assessment can be powerful)
  5. Concentrate on specific indicators in a rubric. (There are various indicators such as; active listening, following or providing direction, explaining a view point,  selling an idea, and paraphrasing another persons idea. Concentrate on just one indicator while doing a lesson. There can even be an exit ticket reflection)
  6. Start a lesson out… with Communication. ( Find a current event or interesting article/media that students are interested in that relates to standards. Provides ways for students to explain their thinking while also listening to thoughts from others.)
  7. Post a Creative Communication Poster in the room. (This poster could be a copy of a rubric or even a list of “I Can Statements”. Point it out before a Communication activity.
  8. Make Communication activities and peer discussions part of your formative  and summative assessment.  (Move around the room, talk to groups and students, stop the whole group to make adjustments. Assign multiple ways to demonstrate learning… go beyond the reading from a PowerPoint presentation)
  9. Find ways to build Communication outside the classroom. (Think of ways to have students Communicate with other classrooms in the school, city, state, or world. Provide digital ways to connect with community and mentors)
  10. Plan for a school wide emphasis. (A learning culture that builds Communication is usually bigger then one classroom. Schools and classrooms that practice student owned/centered learning promote Communication. Develop school-wide vocabulary, posters, and initiatives.)

I have been mentioning rubrics and assessment tools through out this post. To me, these are essential in building that culture of Communication in the classroom. I want to provide you with some great resources that will give your some powerful tools to facilitate and assess the skill of Communication.  Keep in mind that students can also self assess and journal using prompts from a Communication Rubric. In fact, peer assessment using a rubric is powerful before a final presentation or competition event.

Ten Resources to Help with Assessment and Facilitation of Creativity

  1. Habits of Mind – I think this is an awesome place to help teachers facilitate and assess Communication and more. Check out the free resources page which even has some wonderful posters. One of my favorites is the rubrics found on this research page. Decide on spending some time because there are a lot of great resources.
  2. PBLWorks – The number one place for PBL in the world is at PBLWorks. You may know it as the BUCK Institute or BIE. I am fortunate to be part of their National Faculty which is probably why I rank it as number one. I encourage you to visit their site for everything PBL.  This link brings you to the resource area where you will discover some amazing  rubrics. In harmony with this article on Communication, be sure to check out the  Presentation Rubrics. You will find rubrics for grade bands K-2, 3-5, and 6-12. This really is a great place to start. You will need to sign up to be a member of PBLWorks. This is a wonderful idea, after-all it is free!
  3. Microsoft Innovative LearningThis  website contains some powerful rubrics for assessing the 21st Century skills. The link will bring you to a PDF file with Communication rubrics you can use tomorrow for any grade level. Check out this two page document defining the 4 C’s and a movie giving you even more of an explanation.
  4. New Tech School – This amazing PBL group of schools provide some wonderful Learning Rubrics in their free area.  Here you will find an interesting collection of Communication rubrics that assesses student learning in multiple areas. These are sure to get you off and started.
  5. AACU Rubrics – You will find some great  written and oral communication rubrics. The VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty.
  6. Project Zero – The Visual Thinking Core Routines helps students develop their capacity to think critically while expressing their ideas and listening to others.
  7. Edutopia Communication Skills – Check out this section of Edutopia for some amazing articles to plant seeds of Communication in you school or classroom. Enjoy the possibilities.
  8. CTE Online – Check out these PBL Projects that emphasize Communication Skills.
  9. Positive Psychology – Check out these 39 Communication Skill activities.
  10. NSFR Protocols – These are a must view for those trying to find protocols that allow students and teachers to practice Communication skills that will make a difference!

I Can Statements for Communication

  1. I can explain my thinking regarding an idea or concept to others.
  2. I can actively listen to others and repeat what I have heard.
  3. I can provide productive feedback to others.
  4. I can practice good presentation skills including proper speech, eye contact, voice inflection, and knowledge content.
  5. I can practice good listening skills including eye contact, positive body language, and helpful feedback
  6. I can use multiple ways to effectively communicate including written, face to face, and digital.
  7. I can determine the best form of communication for different situations while finding the most effective resources when explaining or presenting.
  8. I can practice empathy and understanding as I discuss with others.
  9. I can use imagination and creativity to present an idea.
  10. I can employ my knowledge and enthusiasm above any technology or prop when presenting a concept, topic, or idea.

cross-posted at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com

Michael Gorman oversees one-to-one laptop programs and digital professional development for Southwest Allen County Schools near Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is a consultant for Discovery Education, ISTE, My Big Campus, and November Learning and is on the National Faculty for The Buck Institute for Education. His awards include district Teacher of the Year, Indiana STEM Educator of the Year and Microsoft’s 365 Global Education Hero. Read more at 21centuryedtech.wordpress.com.